01/06/2015 1:18PM

Handle soars at Turfway Park's holiday meet

Coady Photography
Turfway Park's holiday meet handle jumped more than 20 percent compared to 2013.

Bucking a national trend of declining betting figures, Turfway Park showed a dramatic increase in handle for its recently concluded holiday meet, which ran during the month of December.

Turfway, located in northern Kentucky, saw its handle spike more than 21 percent despite racing two fewer race cards than in 2013, according to statistics supplied by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission. Average daily handle climbed even higher, 36 percent.

Total handle last month at Turfway was $31,135,521, up from $25,637,320 for the previous December. Average handle was $1,945,970.

Handle figures released by the KHRC did not specify ontrack vs. offtrack figures, nor was Turfway Park immediately able to provide any.

Among other factors, including improved weather and renovations to the track’s Polytrack surface, handle grew due to growth in field size, making for a competitive betting product, Turfway general manager Chip Bach said. Field size averaged 10.1 starters per race in 2014, up from 8.9 runners the prior year.

The larger fields were a function of decreased competition for horses among neighboring tracks, Bach said.

Bach said he also was pleased with the results of the track shifting to a later post time on Saturdays, going from 1:10 p.m. to 6:15 p.m. Eastern. By moving to night racing and avoiding direct simulcast competition with the top tracks in the East, “we became more of a bigger fish in the smaller pond,” Bach said.

Albin Jimenez and Perry Ouzts tied for leading rider with 19 victories apiece. Luis Jurado was the leading trainer, and Dick Maynard and the partnership of Billy, Donna, and Justin Hays tied for leading owner.

Turfway Park continues to race, now in the early stages of its winter/spring meet, running Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays.