01/18/2006 1:00AM

Business is up at Beulah meeting


Full fields and mild winter weather have led to booming business during the first two weeks of Beulah Park's winter-spring meet, which runs through Kentucky Derby Day on May 6.

Through the first eight days of the meeting, Beulah has averaged $1,586,380 in all-sources handle per day, up more than 14 percent over the same period last year, when the track averaged $1,362,961. Beulah has averaged more than 10 starters per race at the current meeting.

The winter-spring meeting has been a major success for Beulah since 2004, when the track switched to a five-day-per-week schedule from January through March, when there is less simulcast competition. Before 2004, the track raced three days a week in January and four days a week in February before going to five days a week in March.

Despite the wagering increases, track general manager Mike Weiss said he does not expect purses, which have been stagnant at the track for more than a decade, to be increased during the meeting.

"We'll look at the numbers over the summer, and there may be an increase in the fall," said Weiss, referring to the fall meeting, which begins Oct. 6. Beulah's average purse per race is less than $6,000, among the lowest in the country, excluding tracks that conduct fair meetings. An entry-level allowance race at Beulah has a purse of $7,500. The track does not offer open stakes races.

Monday's Martin Luther King Day card showed how good the numbers have been at the meeting. Beulah carded a nine-race program instead of its normal 10-race Monday card, anticipating that increased competition would hurt the track's handle. Instead, Beulah handled over $1.6 million on the day. Spurred by free parking and admission, as well as fried chicken dinner specials in the clubhouse, ontrack handle on the holiday was $69,810, the highest weekday total at the track in many months.

* Last Saturday, Beulah unveiled a new wager called the Fortune 6. The 25-cent wager requires a player to pick the winners of six consecutive races. Unlike a traditional pick six, the carryover is paid out only when there is a single winning ticket. On days when multiple tickets select six winners or when no ticket has selected six winners, 40 percent of the pool after taxes is split among the winners, with the remainder of the pool going into the carryover, or jackpot.

Beulah has guaranteed an initial jackpot of $50,000. Average daily handle for the bet through the first three days of the wager has been approximately $10,000. On the first two days of the wager no tickets selected six winners, although one ticket was live to 4-5 favorite Keeperofthelight in the last leg of Monday's sequence. If Keeperofthelight had won, Beulah would have had to contribute $42,000 to the jackpot to reach the $50,000 guarantee.

On Tuesday, four tickets selected all six winners.

Weiss said he is relatively happy with the amount wagered on the Fortune 6, considering that tracks who use the totalizator services of the Scientific Games Corporation are unable to take the wager.