09/20/2012 7:50AM

Kentucky Downs posts sharp increase in handle

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Kentucky Downs, the turf-only track in south-central Kentucky, ended its abbreviated meet Wednesday with major gains in handle from last year, thanks largely to more races and to purses enhanced by revenues from Instant Racing machines.

Gross all-sources handle of $7,570,730 was more than double the $3.75 million wagered during a four-day 2011 meet, while average daily handle of $1,514,146 was up 61 percent. The average ontrack handle of $550,757 was up 40 percent.

Kentucky Downs ran 43 races this year, versus 30 last year, an increase of about 43 percent. The total purse giveaway this year, according to Daily Racing Form charts, was about $2,034,000, or more than $400,000 per card. Field size averaged 9.6 horses per races versus 8.8 for last year.

Six programs were scheduled at the meet, which began Sept. 8, but only five were contested after the Monday card was canceled because of weather. The track was unable to make up the date.

“Instant Racing enabled us to increase purses dramatically, and the fans, with their enthusiasm and their wagers, proved they’re eager to support quality racing,” track president Corey Johnsen said in a media release.

Instant Racing machines – slot-machine-like gambling devices that base payoffs on the results of previously run races – have been in use at Kentucky Downs since Sept. 1, 2011.

On the racetrack, Brian Hernandez Jr. won two races on the final card to nip Corey Lanerie by a 7-6 count for top jockey; the two Louisiana natives finished in a tie for leading rider at the Ellis Park summer meet. Rusty Arnold was the leading trainer with three wins.

Kentucky Downs has applied for eight days for 2013 – three in late March and five during its normal September slot.