Wednesday, January 3, 2007 12:00 AM
Year brings double-digit increases
FLORENCE, KY . . . January 3, 2007 . . . Turfway Park continued its upward trend through the 2006 Holiday Meet, posting increases in both on-track and all-sources wagering on races run at Turfway. The just-completed meet is the second Holiday Meet run on the track's Polytrack surface.
During the 25 days of racing from November 26 through December 31, on-track wagering, the amount wagered on Turfway races by patrons at the track, totaled $3,479,946, a 7.5 percent increase over the same period last year. Wagering on Turfway races from all sources rose 18.7 percent to $88,224,228.
The 2006 Holiday Meet is the fourth consecutive reporting period to show increases in both categories and double-digit increases in all-sources handle.
"Our business has steadily increased since we installed Polytrack in September 2005," said Turfway Park president and CEO Robert N. Elliston. "But after a couple of recent meets, we also rightly attributed some of the increase to such factors as the effects of Hurricane Katrina, renewed agreements with certain OTBs, and the fact that we did not have to cancel races last winter. There are no such factors behind the numbers for this meet, so we see even more clearly the impact of Polytrack on our business. These numbers represent the betting public's growing interest in Turfway Park racing, plain and simple.
"Horsemen continue to show their support of Polytrack by bringing more talented horses to Turfway, which in turn allows us to fill more allowance races and to add allowance conditions to optional claiming races. We're offering a better product, and the public clearly has responded to it.
"In addition, we continue to draw a younger crowd that has begun to get into the game, particularly on Friday nights when we offer a $1 'happy hour' and $1 bets. Before newcomers can get comfortable playing, they have to enjoy coming to the track. Friday nights are loud, busy, and fun, and our handle has begun to reflect that. Our business on Friday nights is up about 40 percent since we started $1 party nights about two years ago."
Holiday Meet purse money provided by the track rose 10 percent to $2,841,725, but total available purse money declined 4.4 percent to $3,238,375 as Turfway, like all major Kentucky tracks, worked to pay down deficits in the Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund.
Turfway canceled eight of nine races on December 13 when a power outage left the track without lights; seven of those races were made up over the balance of the meet. A total of 259 races were run in the 2006 Holiday Meet, compared to 247 during the same period in 2005. Reflecting that difference, average field size this meet was 10.2, compared to 10.4 for last year's Holiday Meet.
Mena leading jockey; Foley and Smithwick tie
Miguel Mena earned his first Turfway riding title, leading all jockeys in the Holiday Meet with 42 wins from 200 mounts, including the My Charmer and Holiday Cheer stakes. Apprentice Alonso Quinonez was second with 30 wins from 215 mounts.
Gregory Foley and D. Michael Smithwick Jr. tied for leading trainer honors with seven wins each, Foley from 38 starters and Smithwick from 17. It was Foley's second Holiday Meet title, his fifth at Turfway overall, and Smithwick's first.
David A. Ross was the meet's leading owner with five winners from 11 starters. Gus Goldsmith was second with four winners from 15 starters.
Year sees double-digit increases over 2005
The Holiday Meet is the third of Turfway's three annual meets. Taking all three meets together, Turfway enjoyed double-digit increases in both on-track and all-sources handle in 2006 over 2005. On-track handle for the year rose 13.5 percent to $15,558,289, while all-sources wagering rose 41.3 percent to $345,128,726. Total purses paid in 2006 increased 5.5 percent to $16,368,342. Field size across the year held steady at 8.8 starters per race even as the track presented 111 more races in 2006 than in 2005.
The 2007 Winter/Spring Meet opened January 1 and runs through April 5. First post Wednesday through Friday is 5:30 p.m. ET. Except for a noon first post on Super Bowl Sunday, first post on Saturday and Sunday is 1:10 p.m. ET. The highlight of the meet, the $500,000 Grade II Lane's End Stakes, is scheduled for March 24.