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Turfway ends Winter/Spring Meet: numbers up, mettle tested

Monday, April 5, 2004 12:00 AM
  • General
FLORENCE, KY . . . April 5, 2004 . . . Turfway Park closed out its 2004 Winter/Spring Meet April 1, ending three months of remarkable highs and heartbreaking lows.

Turfway’s personnel and horsemen faced racing’s starkest reality February 9 when jockey Michael Rowland, 40, died from injuries suffered in a fall on the track on February 4. A memorial service held at the track February 11 both confirmed and strengthened the sense of family that underlies the competition among any jockey colony. Turfway established the Michael F. Rowland Fund at Fifth Third Bank to benefit Rowland’s wife, trainer Tammy Rowland, and three daughters, and that fund, together with similar efforts by the Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (HBPA) had brought in nearly $70,000 by meet’s end.

Ouzts chosen first Michael F. Rowland Award nominee
On the meet’s final night, Turfway introduced veteran rider Perry Ouzts as its jockeys’ nominee for the first Michael F. Rowland Award. The award has been established in cooperation with Mountaineer Park in West Virginia and Beulah Park, River Downs, and Thistledown in Ohio, tracks where Rowland spent most of his career, to honor the jockey who best exemplifies Rowland’s work ethic, professionalism, and perseverance. Each of the other four tracks will present a nominee this summer, and the winner will be announced at Turfway during the Kentucky Cup Day of Champions on September 18. Jockeys riding at the participating tracks choose the nominees and the winner.

Handle up across the board
Although Turfway cancelled nine whole cards and parts of six others during the Winter/Spring Meet, the track posted increases in both on-track and all-sources wagering on Turfway races over the same period in 2003. The meet began January 1 and closed April 1.

In-state and out-of-state wagering on Turfway races increased 19.8 percent to $138,338,918, including a 3.9 percent jump on-track. Wagering on Turfway races increased despite a 2.3 percent drop in the number of races conducted: 564 during the 2004 Winter/Spring Meet compared to 577 during the same time last year. The track held live races on 55 days during the meet, five more than last year.

Purses paid during the Winter/Spring Meet hit $8,938,320, a 1.1 percent rise. Average field size improved from 8.1 starters per race to 8.8.

With the exception of Lane's End Stakes Day, admission to Turfway is free and attendance figures are unavailable.

One Bejarano record after another
Jockey Rafael Bejarano blazed through the Winter/Spring Meet, winning 150 races from 472 mounts and obliterating the previous record for number of wins, 111, set by Jason Lumpkins last year. Bejarano’s efforts put him atop the national standings by wins as well, more than 50 ahead of second place for the period.

Second in the Turfway jockey standings for the meet was Eddie Zuniga with 44 wins from 296 mounts. Jason Lumpkins was third with 40 wins from 270 mounts.

Bejarano also posted 99 seconds and 65 thirds, putting him in the money 66.5 percent of the time and boosting his earnings to $2,008,233. That total gave him yet another record for the Winter/Spring Meet; the previous earnings record for the period had been $1,636,380, set in 1999 by Francisco Torres.

On March 12 Bejarano set not only a meet record but also a track record when he rode seven winners on one card, beating by one the record set by Kris Prather in 2001 and twice equaled by Bejarano during the meet. Multiple-win days were routine for Bejarano, who also won four races 12 times and five races four times. He won six of the 16 stakes races during the meet, including three on Silver Minister for trainer Gregory Foley.

Foley breaks Flint hold on leading trainer honors
Although Silver Minister finished an inexplicable last in the Lane’s End Stakes, Greg Foley saddled plenty of other winners during the meet, taking leading trainer honors with 24 wins from 71 starters. That total put him seven ahead of runner-up S. Joseph Cain and eight ahead of third-place finisher Bernard Flint. It was the first time in 10 consecutive meets that Flint did not lead or tie as leading trainer. Foley’s runners earned $481,950 during the meet.

M. Y. Stables tops owner standings
M. Y. Stables Inc. (Ronald McKay) landed atop the leading owner list by number of wins with six firsts, 10 seconds, and six thirds from 49 starters for earnings of $66,773. Eight other owners posted five wins apiece.

Turfway is open for simulcasting all year, presenting top racing from around the country Wednesday through Sunday each week. Gates open 11:15 a.m. Eastern time each day. The track is closed Monday and Tuesday. Live racing returns September 8.


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