FLORENCE, Ky., April 4, 2011 – Turfway Park ended its 2011 Winter/Spring Meet with wagering increases both on-track and from all-sources, bucking national trends. The meet opened January 1 and closed April 3.
On-track handle on Turfway races rose 6.3 percent to $5,647,604. All-sources wagering on Turfway races rose 3.3 percent to $95,013,790.
On-track handle on all races—i.e., Turfway races and races simulcast from other tracks—rose 13.5 percent to $15,689,677 through the end of the live meet, driven by an 18 percent increase in play on simulcast races. This number does not yet include Wednesday and Thursday of this week when Turfway remains the Kentucky host track before Keeneland opens on Friday.
"I am tremendously excited by these numbers," said Turfway Park president and CEO Robert N. Elliston. "From patrons at our facility, we produced 13.5 percent more wagering this year than last year, and we still have two days to go. This is particularly strong in comparison to newly released national numbers that show wagering down nearly 8.5 percent over virtually the same period" (per Equibase).
As part of the effort to drive handle and in keeping with its tradition of innovation, Turfway changed its Saturday post time from 1:10 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., introducing Saturday Night Lights as a "date night" complement to its highly successful Dollar Friday promotion.
"We recognized that many families are busy on Saturday afternoons with children's activities and errands that have to be done on weekends because parents are working," said Elliston. "We tried Saturday night racing to see if we could draw them back by fitting better into that lifestyle. We saw definite increases in our food and beverage business and in on-track simulcast handle on Saturday evenings, but we are still evaluating the overall impact of the change."
Field size held nearly steady at 8.5 starters per race, down 1.2 percent from last year.
Despite severe winter weather through most of the meet, Turfway canceled only one full card and one partial card, the former due to a snowstorm and the latter due to extreme cold.
Creed, Maker, Hays family repeat as meet leaders
Ben Creed captured his second Turfway riding title with 62 wins from 318 mounts. John McKee was second with 40 wins from 239 mounts, riding four winners on closing day to pass Rodney Prescott, who finished third with 38 wins from 295 mounts.
Among Creed's wins were the Holiday Cheer Stakes aboard Western Prospector, the Cincinnati Trophy Stakes with Angelica Zapata, and the Wintergreen Stakes with Spring Party. Creed earned his first title, the 2009 Holiday Meet, when he was still an apprentice.
Mike Maker earned his seventh Turfway training title by saddling 35 winners from 100 starters. Eric Reed was second with 20 winners from 84 starters, and Bill Connelly was third with 16 winners from 74 starters.
Maker won four of the meet's 18 stakes: the WEBN with Twinspired, the Likely Exchange with La Gran Bailadora, the Tejano Run with Baryshnikov, and the Hansel with Ghost is Clear.
The meet's leading owner was again the family partnership of Billy, Donna, and Justin Hays, who had 18 winners from 59 starters. Ken and Sarah Ramsey were second with 11 winners from 37 starters, and Mr. and Mrs. R. David Randal were third with seven winners from 24 starters.
Live racing returns to Turfway September 8. The track remains open Wednesday through Sunday each week for simulcast racing.