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Turfway closes historic meet

Friday, October 7, 2005 12:00 AM
  • General
  • Kentucky Cup
Kobiskie, Lukas take meet titles
FLORENCE, KY . . . October 7, 2005 . . . Turfway Park closed its historic Fall Meet Thursday thoroughly satisfied with the performance of its new Polytrack racing surface. The 22-day meet marked the first time the revolutionary all-weather surface had been used for racing in North America.

The surface met expectations virtually across the board, with the safety of the horses uppermost. “In the fall of 2004, we had 21 horses listed as DNF [did not finish the race],” said Robert Elliston, Turfway’s president and CEO. “For this meet that number was 10. The actual number of documented injuries occurring during the races from those failing to finish was only three, with the rest either being outdistanced, bolting, or experiencing equipment failure.”

In addition, the track’s maintenance staff and outriders confirmed that no calls were sent out for the horse ambulance during morning training since the track opened on August 3.

Patrons and horsemen watched to see how the track would play, and Polytrack also lived up to its billing in that regard, said Elliston. “Horsemen and jockeys alike have told us how pleased they have been with the fairness of the racing surface. Regardless of running style, participants were consistent in their belief that their horses were not compromised by how the track was playing.” Statistics related to post positions and running styles of winners throughout the meet are being compiled.

“We could not be more pleased with the positive reaction we have received from horsemen, jockeys, and patrons throughout this Fall Meet,” Elliston concluded. “Couple that with [Polytrack creator] Martin Collins’s assessment that the track will only get better with time, and we are very excited to go racing again come November 27.”

In terms of both handle and field size, the Fall Meet got off to a slow start as horsemen withheld entries over concerns about new state medication rules. Entries picked up beginning with the second week, however, and though average field size for the entire meet was 8.7, field size for the final three weeks was 9.1. Last year’s Fall Meet saw an average of 8.5 per race.

On-track handle—the amount wagered by Turfway patrons on Turfway races and on races simulcast from other tracks—was $6,793,059, a 2.1 percent increase over 2004. Handle on Turfway races from all sources was $47,379,056, a decline of 11.8 percent from 2004. Fully half that decline occurred during the first five days of the meet. The remainder of the downturn is attributed to business decisions made by Turfway regarding some off-track betting locations.

“Without assurances of transparency in the way they do business, we elected to withhold our signal from some secondary pari-mutuel operators,” said Elliston. “In addition, contract issues led us not to participate with New York OTB.” Elliston also cited loss of play from Fair Grounds and other Louisiana outlets closed by Hurricane Katrina.

On the Kentucky Cup Day of Champions, the highlight of the Fall Meet, on-track wagering on Turfway races was up 19 percent. All-sources wagering on Turfway races that day was up 5 percent.

Turfway presented 220 races over 22 days of racing in the Fall Meet. Purses for the meet edged up 1.1 percent to an average $178,136 per day. Because Turfway does not charge admission, attendance figures are estimates only and are not released.

Apprentice Kobiskie, veteran Lukas take meet titles
The race for leading rider was as tight as the meet’s frequent photo finishes, with five riders finishing five or fewer wins behind the top jockey, apprentice Dane Kobiskie. Kobiskie finished with 20 wins, one ahead of Jesus Castanon, and added 23 seconds and 19 thirds in his 144 starts. The 26-year-old former Marine earned purses totaling $282,404.

D. Wayne Lukas sent 44 starters to the Turfway gate and found the winner’s circle eight times to earn his 11th Turfway meet title. Lukas had six seconds and three thirds as well to bring his purse earnings to $179,489. The Hall of Fame trainer has eight previous Fall Meet titles and one each in Winter/Spring and Holiday meets. David Carroll finished second with five wins from seven starters.

Six owners tied for most wins with three apiece: Silverton Hill LLC; Nancy R. and Richard S. Kaster; Arthur B. Hancock III; Herman Van Den Broeck; Stan E. Fulton; and Joseph F. Schrage. Silverton Hill and the Kasters also posted one second and one third each.

Live racing returns to Turfway November 27 and continues through early April. The track remains open for simulcasting.

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