12/02/2014 11:16AM

Handle plunges again at Churchill fall meet

Debra A. Roma
Gross handle for Churchill's fall meet dropped nearly 20 percent compared to 2013.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – All-sources handle at the Churchill Downs fall meet that ended Sunday was down significantly again, continuing a downward trend at this historic track.

Gross handle at a 24-day meet that began Oct. 26 was $95,225,100, for a daily average of $3,967,712. The gross was down 19 percent from the 2013 fall meet, where handle was $117.6 million for 25 days, and the daily average was down 16.7 percent.

Daily handle at the 2013 fall meet was down 15.3 percent from the 2012 fall meet, where 21 dates were run. Moreover, handle at the 2014 spring meet was down 28 percent from 2013, not including the Kentucky Derby and Oaks, and handle at the 2014 September meet was down 16 percent from the inaugural September meet in 2013.

Churchill officials long have claimed that they are at a competitive disadvantage without the gaming revenue that rival tracks can funnel into purses. Another factor in play: Churchill raised wagering takeout to the statutory maximum this year, leading to dissatisfaction from horseplayers in the North American simulcast market.

Ontrack handle for the 2014 fall meet was not immediately available from the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission. Attendance has not been released since Churchill-owned tracks stopped making those figures public in 2007.

Gross purse payouts for the fall meet were more than $8.6 million, up 9 percent over last fall. The daily purse payout was up almost 5 percent.

Field size averaged 8.56 horses per race, down from 8.81 at the 2013 fall meet. Favorites won 95 of 250 races (38 percent). There were 139 horses claimed for more than $2.7 million, yielding $163,920 in sales-tax revenue to the state of Kentucky.

Churchill was scheduled to run 26 days this fall, but two dates (Nov. 19-20) were canceled because of the weather. That prevented the daily handle figures from being even worse: The canceled days were a Wednesday and Thursday, and an extra race was added to four programs at the end of the meet.

On the racetrack, Corey Lanerie won 36 races and was the leading jockey for the seventh time in the last eight Churchill meets. Ken and Sarah Ramsey tied with Gary and Mary West for leading owner (12 wins each), marking a record-extending 23rd time the Ramseys have won or tied for the title here. Dale Romans sent out 14 winners and has now won or tied for leading trainer here 12 times.