07/02/2014 12:33PM

All-sources handle at Churchill spring meet down sharply

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. – All-sources wagering handle at the Churchill Downs spring meet that ended Sunday fell by 11.5 percent, a sharp drop that national horseplayers’ groups are claiming is at least partly attributable to a boycott of the track’s simulcast signal.

Handle at the 38-day meet totaled almost $369 million, down from the almost $417 million wagered at the corresponding meet in 2013, when 24 more races were run.

The decrease would have been substantially worse if almost $230 million (down marginally from 2013) in combined handle on Kentucky Oaks and Derby Days had been discounted. Without those two dates, handle on the other 36 days of the meet was down more than 25 percent.

Ontrack handle was not affected nearly as severely, with handle of almost $56 million down 2 percent. Attendance figures were not available.

The average field size for 372 races was 7.29 horses, down noticeably from 7.78 in 2013 (396 races). Per-day purse payouts to horsemen were down marginally, averaging $532,903 versus $534,942 in 2013. Gross purse payouts were more than $20.2 million.

Just before the meet began April 26, the Lexington, Ky.-based Horseplayers Association of North America was among those asking bettors to boycott the Churchill signal because the track had raised its takeout from last year, moving from 16 percent to 17.5 percent on win-place-show wagers and from 19 percent to 22 percent on exotic wagers.

Regarding the sizable drop in all-sources handle that ensued, the California-based website playersboycott.org was updated this week to read: “You the everyday horseplayer spoke loud and clear.”

Churchill vice president John Asher responded to this topic Wednesday via an e-mail that read in part: “Our daily racing product clearly suffered from the shrinking population of horses and increasing competition with tracks in our region and beyond for available horses, especially in mid-to-lower claiming races. While there were other competitive pressures, we believe the shortage of horses due to the ongoing decline in the North American foal crop and expansion of competition from regional tracks fueled by casino-fed purses were the biggest factors that led to the decline in the number of starters.”

While Churchill Downs Inc. tracks maintain a policy of not releasing business figures to the media, these numbers were obtained this week from the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission by way of a public-records request to the state’s Public Protection Cabinet.

Churchill has two more meets this year, from Sept. 5-28 and Oct. 26 to Nov. 30.

Matthew Martini More than 1 year ago
The massive decline in handle at Churchill was due mostly to the increase in takeout and the subsequent boycott by players nationwide. CDI still refuses to admit publicly that this was the case. That is all the more reason to never play any CDI tracks ever again.
Stephen Mercier More than 1 year ago
2 words ....REDUCE TAKEOUT
Jack Pritchard More than 1 year ago
So sick and TIRED of hearing about 'Take-Out" Yes, and I want Lower Taxes too. Horse player's don't know when betting a Horse how much they get back if it wins,and yet the game continues. You bet a horse at 4/1 He's bet down to 9/5, do you TEAR-up your winning ticket? Hell no. No body TAKES more out of the pockets of the small bettor than the "Big Boy's " in the last few min.at any Race Track......
Steve More than 1 year ago
What you're talking about is out of everyone's control (big bettors). Takeout is controllable. You need to take an economics 101 course
russell More than 1 year ago
Bob- you are right. Isn't it ironic that CD toolbag puppet John Asher is blaming the low handle on the horse racing population. Guess what John Asher, the BC leaders are all big breeders in your home state and they have made a conscience decision to deliberately foal LESS horses. So go ask Elliot Walden, Bill Farish, Ashford Stud etc, why they are not foaling more horses.
Frank Reach More than 1 year ago
Lower the takeout and your handle will go up dramatically. The added handle will end up making you MORE money. Very simple. Yes....it takes guts to lower the handle initially. But, clearly, if Churchill had the fortitude to do that.....then the horseplayers will come.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Handle = $369 million. Gross purse payouts $20.2 million. Need I say more?
Bob More than 1 year ago
$369 million in total handle and $230 million of that was generated over the two day period when they run the Kentucky Derby/Oaks cards.....that leaves $139 million in handle that was generated over the remaining 36 dates. This suggests to me that bettors around the country have finally learned what some of us have known for a long time, which is that the racing at Churchill Downs is horrible for the most part! The Derby itself, which is obviously the saving grace for the track, is the single most over-hyped, over-rated race run in North America and maybe the entire world! And the rest of the racing at Churchill is terrible. The only large fields are the two year-old MSW races with 12 unraced starters that are impossible to handicap and are therefore unbettable. The remainder of most cards are small fields where the tote board will tell you more about who the live horses are than the DRF or any other handicapping tool you can buy. Andy Beyer roundly criticized Kentucky racing decades ago in at least one of his early books, accusing the entire state of being nothing more than a good old boys club of Kentucky blue-bloods who he was convinced were engaging in a conspiracy to relieve him of all of is hard-earned money and from what I have seen of Kentucky racing in general and the racing at Churchill in particular, I am beginning to think he was right!
Greg More than 1 year ago
No surprise at all, I am a horse player everyday as long as it isn't cheap claiming races. I played Churchill 3 days this meet profited nicely. A track cannot exist with players doing that. Get slots Churchill or what? LOW handle, can't wait for the SPA.
DavidM9999 More than 1 year ago
Was John Asher’s nose growing as he read off the CDI/Evans talking points? John was once well respected in horse racing. Now he seems more like a puppet front man for a disliked corporation. For me it was this superfecta in order – higher rake, management arrogance, field size and quality. I suspect the Armani suits inside the board room at CDI will start an image recovery strategy shortly. Maybe they can dig out some of the old BP strategies. Deep down the CDI crew are not horse people and certainly don’t understand horse players. They are focused solely on increasing shareholder value and at least for the short term have proven adept at that.
Bob More than 1 year ago
I thought Humpty-dumpty had died?
Thorobred Racing More than 1 year ago
Horseplayers everywhere continue to be on guard and do not let these two bit racing executives take you for suckers. Pick and choose your bets and let every track executive in the country recognize your will and power to stop paying for their inflated salaries and bonuses through higher take outs
pathagan More than 1 year ago
Gotta love John Asher's spin on why CD had across-the-board declines. Ongoing decline in foal crop? Tell that to SA (who had across-the-board increases in handle in their recently-concluded spring meet).