07/07/2013 10:08AM

Lone Star Park: Meet sees small gains in average handle, attendance


GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas – Lone Star Park experienced small gains in average daily handle and attendance after rallying in the final weeks of its 50-date meet that ended Saturday. The track drew more than 55,000 patrons over the last four dates of the meet, which included two nights of fireworks following the races.

“Every day has been great the last three or four weeks of the meet,” said Drew Shubeck, president and general manager of Lone Star.

Lone Star’s attendance averaged 7,440 at this meet, up 2 percent from the corresponding 53-date meet in 2012, according to Shubeck. Handle on Lone Star’s races averaged approximately $964,000 per card, up 1.5 percent from last season, he said. Handle averaged $271,000 a card ontrack, a dip of 3 percent, and $693,000 offtrack, up 4 percent.

“We’re very happy about [the overall handle increase] because we started off the meet very poorly,” Shubeck said. “The weather played against us at the beginning of the meet. We had a late spring. We couldn’t use the turf course for the whole month of April, essentially, and almost half of May. We didn’t come back on the turf until after the Kentucky Derby.

“So, by losing the ability to use those turf horses, we had shorter fields, we had less races. On Thursdays, we only had eight races instead of nine. We really suffered at the beginning.”

Lone Star ended up running only 88 turf races at this meet, compared with 155 last season. Overall, the track had 461 races, compared with 479 during the corresponding meet in 2012. The average field size was 8.29 starters at this meet, down from 8.33 last year.

Shubeck said the meet began to shift in a positive direction when Lone Star was able to get back on its turf course. He also said an experiment shortening the race week from four dates to three for a few weeks toward the end of the season contributed to the upswing.

“Locally here at Lone Star, field size really jumped,” he said. “The competitiveness of our races vastly improved. I had individual customers telling me, ‘I’ve started to look at your races again instead of sitting here looking at other races.’ So, we’re going to really be looking at this three-day-week experiment and maybe doing more of it next year.”

Lone Star dropped Sundays and likely would do the same for a portion of the meet next year, Shubeck said. Date requests to the Texas Racing Commission are not due until July 15, but Shubeck said a 52-date meet could be sought, racing another week or two into July.

“Saving those few races by dropping down to [eight-race cards] on Thursday nights for just about the whole meet, and by dropping some of the Sundays, I think we really proved that with the horse quantity in this region of the country, that that’s probably the way we’re going to have to go,” he said. “Maybe not for the whole meet next year, but for practically half of the meet.”

Shubeck said plans would become firmer after the meet’s numbers are analyzed and the track discusses dates with horsemen.

Purses at the meet averaged $143,451 per program, up from $141,479 a card in 2012.

Danny Keene won the owners’ title with 22 wins from 81 starters. His stable earned $202,355. Allen Milligan was the leading trainer, with 46 wins from 198 starts. His stable earned $477,928. Lindey Wade won the riding title, with 54 wins from 275 starts. His mounts earned $674,008.

The horse of the meet was Master Rick, who swept the two richest races of the season, the Grade 3, $200,000 Texas Mile and the Grade 3, $300,000 Lone Star Park Handicap.