01/02/2006 12:00AM

Turfway business booms

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Bolstered by large fields racing over its Polytrack surface, Turfway Park in Florence, Ky., reported significant increases in handle for its Holiday meet that ended Saturday.

Wagering on Turfway races from all sources rose to $74,332,516, a 38 percent increase over the 2004 Holiday meet. The increase was led by $66,059,019 in out-of-state wagering, a 41 percent jump over 2004, and ontrack wagering of $3,237,724, a 22 percent increase. The track ran 247 races over 24 days in 2005, compared with 225 races over 22 days in 2004, an increase in the number of races that was partially the result of one fewer weather-related cancellation this year.

Turfway Park president Bob Elliston attributed the increases to Polytrack, which was installed before the fall meet in September, and the addition of wagering markets in New York and Canada. The track averaged 10.4 starters per race, compared with 9.9 a year ago.

Although Turfway's largest gains came in offtrack wagering, average ontrack handle also recorded a double-digit percentage gain. Average daily handle was $134,095, nearly 12 percent higher than 2004.

Because the track had a purse deficit before the start of the meet, no purse increase is scheduled, Elliston said, but an increase could result later in the winter-spring meet, which began Sunday and continues until April 6. Average daily purses jumped 6 percent during the holiday meet to $141,078, an increase attributed to higher-level races filling with more regularity.

Jesus Castanon and Joe Cain each won his first Turfway Park riding and training title, respectively. Castanon won with 27 of 129 mounts, while Cain topped the training standings by going 8 for 35.