11/28/2005 12:00AM

Fall meet business strong


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Business figures were up in virtually every category at the 21-day fall meet at Churchill Downs, where a massive pick six carryover, large fields, and the completion of the $121 million facility renovation were major factors in the upsurge.

All-sources wagering averaged more than $8 million per day for the first time in track history. The final number was $8,676,904, an increase of 11.3 percent over the 2004 fall meet, when the new facility was still not ready.

Ontrack attendance and handle averaged 7,820 and $1,165,874, respectively, representing increases of 4.7 and 6 percent. Comparative figures from last year include business from the nearby Trackside simulcast annex, which was since been closed.

Field size at this meet averaged a robust 10.17 horses per race, up from 9.82 last fall. The only decline in any category was in the per-day purse average, which was $478,632, down 3.5 percent from last year.

The pick six carryover that culminated with $5.7 million being distributed among 125 perfect tickets on Nov. 19 was a major factor in the overall increase in business at the meet. Other notable events included the "Stars of Tomorrow" card for 2-year-olds on Nov. 5, the Pat Day farewell on Nov. 12, and the Kentucky Derby legends promotion on Nov. 19.

"Our fall meet was a success on many levels," said Churchill's president, Steve Sexton.

On the racetrack, a dramatic finish to the Churchill jockeys' race resulted in Rafael Bejarano and Mark Guidry sharing the riding title with 26 wins each.

Bejarano entered Saturday's closing-day card with a two-win lead, but Guidry won four races to his two, yielding the first dead heat in a Churchill jockeys' race since Pat Day and Fabio Arguello Jr. each rode 83 winners at the 1992 spring meet. It was the first fall-meet tie since 1970.

The title was the first for Guidry since he moved several years ago from Chicago, where he was a leading jockey.

Meanwhile, Dale Romans clinched the training title early on the Saturday card. His main clients, Ken and Sarah Ramsey, wrapped up the owners' title earlier in the week. Romans, with 16 wins, won or tied for a Churchill title for the seventh time, while the Ramseys, with seven wins, won their 10th Churchill title.