09/16/2016 9:46AM

Handle surges at Kentucky Downs meet


Virtually every record was smashed at a Kentucky Downs meet that ended Thursday as the turf-only track in south-central Kentucky continues to win over fans and horsemen with its huge purses, big fields, and unique brand of racing.

A five-day meet that began Sept. 3 consisted of 50 races that drew all-sources handle of more than $22.5 million, reflecting an increase of nearly 34 percent over the 2015 gross handle for 48 races. The per-day average was slightly more than $4.5 million.

Total purse payouts, including bonuses from the Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund, were a whopping $7,885,979, for an average of nearly $1.58 million per card, or 19 percent more than last year. Field size averaged 10.96 horses per race.

“It’s gratifying,” Kentucky Downs president Corey Johnsen said in a media release.

“We’ve had this vision since 2007 to be a meaningful presence in the Thoroughbred racing world,” Johnsen added, referring to the year he, Ray Reid, and partners purchased the track. “Because everybody in the industry has worked together, we’re able to accomplish that. What’s even more exciting is that there’s still more room to grow.”

On the racetrack, Florent Geroux rode 12 winners for the second straight year in repeating as leading jockey, while Mike Maker (eight wins) led all trainers for the second straight year and Ken and Sarah Ramsey (six) topped all owners for the fourth straight year.

Geroux and Maker each won five of the 12 stakes run at the meet, while the Ramseys won three.

Purses at Kentucky Downs are fueled largely by “historical racing” machines available for year-round play. The slots-like machines became operational in 2011. In addition, mutuel takeout on live races is among the lowest in North America.