07/09/2012 3:26PM

Lone Star Park handle down but management sees positives

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GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas – Lone Star Park reported a decline of nearly 11 percent in average daily handle on its races from all sources during the 53-date meet that closed Sunday, but officials said they were pleased with the season because it hit its marks on major event days.

Lone Star reported handle on its races from all sources averaged $950,943 a card, compared with $1,065,384 during the corresponding 52-date meet in 2011. Of the total handle amount, an average $281,132 a card was bet ontrack, down 7 percent, and $669,811 offtrack, a decline of 12 percent. Average daily attendance, meanwhile, was down 5 percent, to 7,234.

“We’re excited that all the concerts, the Triple Crown events, the Fourth of July fireworks, all the big promotional days, were all good,” said Drew Shubeck, president and general manager of Lone Star. “Regular live race days, we struggled to make our numbers.”

Shubeck said Lone Star’s field size, which dropped from 8.9 starters per race to 8.3, played a significant roll in the handle decline, particularly offtrack numbers.

“We had a period during the middle of the meet when [field size] was horrible, and that’s where we lost most of our ground,” he said. “Customers around the country judging our product-short fields and some non-competitive races – that’s the reason why that’s down.”

Lone Star’s purse structure lags behind several key spring/summer meets, some of which have alternative forms of gaming to bolster their offerings. This season, Lone Star paid out an average $140,641 in purses a program, compared with $158,605 in 2011.

“I think a lot of tracks like us that don’t have the benefit of slot machines, or other ways to [supplement purses], struggle to be competitive,” he said. “You have to have the tools the big boys have.

“When you’re recruiting horsemen over the winter, you have to show them an average daily purse that makes them want to come. You have to separate from the herd. The time of year we run, a lot of good tracks are opening up.”

Shubeck said Lone Star plans several renovation projects in the coming months, the foremost being replacing the existing JumboTron screen with a 60-foot-wide by 17-foot-high Daktronics video board expected to be in place around the start of the Quarter Horse meet Sept. 14.

“It will be state of the art to give people a better view of the live races,” Shubeck said. “And we’ll utilize it for concerts and other forms of entertainment.”

This meet, Lone Star had nine concerts immediately following the races and Shubeck said collective attendance for those events was 127,994.

Jockey Cliff Berry won his fifth Lone Star title, with 62 wins, 20 more than second-leading rider Lindey Wade. Berry made 189 starts at the meet, and his mounts earned $832,627.

Danny Pish won his first Lone Star training title in a race that went to the final card, as he edged two-time defending champ Bret Calhoun, 42-41. Pish made 195 starts at the meet, and had stable earnings of $525,190. Calhoun led all trainers in stable earnings with $697.618.

The leading owner was End Zone Athletics, a Texas-based partnership led by trainer Karl Broberg which had 17 wins from 60 starts. The stable earned $139,164. Tom Durant, who is sending horses to Del Mar, led all stables in earnings with $200,180.

Nates Mineshaft was horse of the meet for his 7 1/4-length win in the Grade 3, $300,000 Lone Star Park Handicap.

Lone Star is operated by Global Gaming Solutions, a subsidiary of the Chickasaw Nation that took over the track in May 2011. Global is also the parent company of Remington Park in Oklahoma City.