FLORENCE, Ky., Oct. 4, 2012 – Turfway closed out its 54th fall meet Sunday with declines in handle offset by a marked rebound in the final two weeks of the meet.
Turfway ended the meet with $1,208,731 in on-track handle, down 26.3 percent from last year's fall meet. All sources handle was $20,486,443, down 24.6 percent. The track raced four days each week from Sept. 6 through Sept. 30.
Contributing to the drop was the loss this year of the five stakes that drove the Kentucky Cup Day of Champions card, which did run last year. Handle on this year's single comparable Saturday was down 57.7 percent all sources and 75.2 percent on-track.
Taken week by week and excluding the Kentucky Cup card, results are clearer.
As they have for many years, Kentucky Downs ran its brief turf meet during the Turfway meet. For the first time, Kentucky Downs this year offered purses inflated by revenue from Instant Racing, negatively affecting Turfway's field size, which averaged 7.1 during the two weeks of the Kentucky Downs meet. Daily average all sources handle dropped 27.2 percent compared to that two-week period last year and daily average on-track handle dropped 22.7 percent.
During the latter half of the meet, however, field size rebounded, averaging 8.3 the third week and 9.3 the fourth week. Handle rebounded as well. Comparing the last two weeks of the 2012 meet to the last two weeks of the 2011 fall meet, again accounting for Kentucky Cup, daily average all-sources handle fell 11.8 percent but daily average on-track handle rose, increasing by 1.0 percent the third week and by 2.1 percent the fourth week.
Overall, field size averaged 8.0 per race for the meet. While that average is down from last fall's 8.4 per race, it aligned with last year's national average of 8.0. (National field size figures are released annually by Equibase, the industry database; figures for 2012 are not yet available.)
Due to short entries, Turfway presented 35 races the first week of the 2012 fall meet, compared to 40 during last year's first week. Increased entries the second two weeks allowed the track to recoup two of the five lost cards. Overall the track presented 157 races in 2012 compared to 162 in 2011, the latter including the 12-race Kentucky Cup card.
Purses totaled $2,230,741 for the 2011 fall meet, compared to $1,549,985 for the comparable period in 2012, with the 2011 Kentucky Cup card again having a significant impact. Comparing the two meets without the two relevant Saturdays represented by Kentucky Cup day, purses totaled $1,446,906 for 2011 vs. $1,427,605 for 2012, a decrease of just 1.3 percent for the 15 days.
"We expected some change with the new impact of Instant Racing at Kentucky Downs, and next year we'll make adjustments to further offset that impact," said Turfway's director of operations, Chip Bach. "The rebound the final two weeks tells us we remain viable as a venue for horsemen while we continue to work toward a level playing field.
"What is not visible in raw numbers is the strong turnout we saw for our events, most of them geared to bring new customers to the track," Bach continued. "Fan Appreciation Day, a joint venture with the horsemen, drew a big crowd of first-timers and casual fans on opening weekend. The day focused on families and included handicapping sessions for novices. We saw the same with the Craft Beer Festival the following weekend. Our Dollar Fridays continue to bring in a young crowd. Again, through contests and games, we work specifically on teaching them how to play. Our location gives us a unique opportunity to reach fans not only in Northern Kentucky but in Greater Cincinnati as well."
Lebron, Maker, Hays Family Take Titles
Victor Lebron won his fifth Turfway riding title and his third in a row, finishing the 16-day meet with 29 wins from 86 mounts. Lebron's meet was highlighted by a six-win day on Sept. 22, one short of the record set by Rafael Bejarano in 2004.
Perry Ouzts was second among riders for the meet with 16 wins from 114 mounts. One of those wins, coming on the penultimate day of the meet, was his 6,000th career victory, a mark reached by only 16 other North American riders.
Marcelino Pedroza Jr. finished third with 14 wins from 54 mounts. Five of those wins came in one day.
Mike Maker again landed atop the trainer standings with 11 winners from 19 starters. Maker now has 11 training titles from Turfway, tying him with D. Wayne Lukas for second-most titles in Turfway history. Bernard Flint holds the record with 20 titles, most recently a tie for the 2004 holiday meet. Joe Woodard was second among trainers with eight winners from 38 starters. Carolyn Murphy, Kellyn Gorder, and Buff Bradley tied for third with four winners each.
The meet's leading owner was again the family partnership of Billy, Donna, and Justin Hays, who posted 7 winners from 38 starters. The title was the third in a row for the Hayses, who have five titles since they began campaigning as a family during the winter/spring meet of 2010. Local dentist Jim Wright was second with four winners from 13 starters. Seven owners tied for third with three winners each.
Live racing returns to Turfway on Nov. 29, the start of the holiday meet. Year round simulcast racing continues Wednesday through Sunday each week, including the Breeders' Cup simulcast from Santa Anita on Nov. 2 and 3.