09/09/2009 12:00AM

Ellis average handle drops despite fewer dates


Average daily handle dropped 17 percent at the 28-day meet that ended Monday at Ellis Park in Henderson, Ky., despite the track running fewer days than last year.

The all-sources average handle of nearly $1.67 million was down from the $2 million average posted at the 2008 meet, when 39 dates were run. Ellis officials attributed part of the decline in average to fewer races per program but said a bigger factor was the increased competition for the gambling dollar from riverboat casinos in neighboring states and racing in states with slots-enhanced purses.

Gross all-sources handle of $46.7 million was down 40 percent from last year.

Ellis Park's owner, Ron Geary, has said repeatedly that he is considering closing the 87-year-old track unless alternative gaming at Kentucky tracks comes closer to reality. Applications for 2010 dates are due Oct. 1.

Perhaps partly because of the possibility that this was the final Ellis meet, ontrack business was up. Attendance averaged 3,698, up 22 percent, while ontrack handle was $205,646, up 17 percent.

The average field size increased substantially at the 2009 meet, from 7.6 starters per race last year to 9.2 this year.

On the racetrack, Jon Court won the jockeys' title for the sixth time by riding 33 winners, one more than Corey Lanerie. Court won five straight titles from 1998-2002. William "Buff" Bradley was the leading trainer with 11 wins, while Carl Short and Elvie Cobb tied for top owner with five wins each.