12/03/2013 11:39AM

Churchill daily average handle down 28 percent from 2012 fall meet


LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Daily average handle from all sources was down more than 15 percent at the Churchill Downs fall meet that ended Saturday, according to information provided by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission.

All-sources handle grossed $117,642,653 at the 25-day meet, which was barely more than the $116,697,792 at the comparable 2012 fall meet, when only 21 days of racing were held.

The daily average this fall was $4,705,706, a reduction of 15.3 percent from the average of $5,557,038 last fall.

Ontrack handle this fall was down even more, averaging just $421,427 per card, a decrease of almost 28 percent from 2012, when the average was $582,478.

One particularly poor date this fall was Oct. 31, when inclement weather limited ontrack handle to a mere $177,806, believed to be the lowest figure in decades, according to a Churchill official requesting anonymity.

The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission does not require tracks to provide them with attendance figures.

For years, tracks owned by Churchill Downs Inc. have not released attendance and handle figures except for major race days. Churchill releases some other business information at its own discretion and did so in regard to purse levels and field size for this latest meet.

In a media release Monday, Churchill reported that gross purse payouts this fall were $8,222,029, down from $8,894,694 paid during the comparable 21-day fall meet in 2012. The per-day purse average of $328,881 this fall meant a decline of 22 percent from the $423,557 averaged last fall.

Field size averaged 8.84, down from 9.56 in 2012.

Churchill racetrack president Kevin Flanery said in a prepared statement: “Along with ongoing competition from casinos in our market that have been part of the scene now for 15 years, competition for both horses and wagering dollars from racetracks that benefit from casino and gaming revenues continues to intensify.

“Those tracks are luring stables and horses from our Kentucky market and Churchill Downs meets, which puts pressure on our efforts to maintain large and competitive fields of horses. That competitive pressure was exacerbated this fall when we encountered unusually wet and cool weather that cost us several days of turf racing, which made it more difficult to maintain large and attractive field sizes.”

Churchill added a 12-day September meet for the first time this year, with all-sources handle grossing almost $46.3 million for a daily average of $3,857,160. Average ontrack handle during that meet was $418,354.

Churchill will have three meets (spring, September, and fall) again in 2014. The 140th Kentucky Derby will be run May 3.