12/08/2016 1:36PM

Woodbine meet posts gains in handle, field size


ETOBICOKE, Ontario – Woodbine’s 133-day meet closed last Sunday with gains in all-sources handle for the second consecutive year.

Woodbine recorded all-sources handle of $469,452,009, up 7.1 percent from last year’s total of $438,185,077. The figure was boosted by record handle on three of Woodbine’s biggest race days: cards headlined by the Queen’s Plate, Woodbine Mile, and Canadian International. Wagering within the greater Toronto area was up 4.1 percent.

The Queen’s Plate card handled $11,839,883, the highest one-day total at Woodbine besides the 1996 Breeders’ Cup card. Attendance for the Queen’s Plate was also strong, as a record 37,063 watched Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s Sir Dudley Digges capture the first jewel of the Canadian Triple Crown under jockey Julien Leparoux in July.

“We saw tremendous growth in our Thoroughbred racing product,” said Sean Pinsonneault, Woodbine’s executive vice president of strategy and wagering. “We had record handles for all of our signature race days, and customers are responding to our blend of entertaining racing and great fan experiences.”

The average field size for the meet was 8.39 horses, up from 8.22 in 2015.

Eurico Da Silva recorded his second straight Woodbine riding title and his third overall. He had three winners on Sunday’s closing-day card to give him a career-best 202 wins for the season, one more than last year. It was just the third time a Woodbine jockey has won more than 200 races in a single meet since Mickey Walls set the Woodbine record with 221 wins in 1991.

Luis Contreras, who finished second with 140 wins this year, is the only other jockey to win more than 200 races in a season, having recorded 212 in 2011.

Mark Casse captured his 10th consecutive Woodbine training title and his 11th overall, finishing the meet with 97 victories. It was the second-highest win total for Casse at a Woodbine meet, behind only his record 119 victories in 2011. Casse’s runners earned $7,261,391, and he led all Woodbine trainers with 17 stakes wins, highlighted by his first victory in the Grade 1 Woodbine Mile with Tepin.

Despite dispersing its stock at the Keeneland November sale, Conquest Stables finished as the meet’s leading owner in earnings with $1,962,352. Conquest Stables won 28 races and recorded a meet-leading five stakes wins. Conquest Enforcer and Conquest Vivi each won a pair of stakes, while Conquest Daddyo captured the Toronto Cup Stakes in July. Bruno Schickedanz led all owners in wins with 38.

Colleen’s Sailor, Ethanol, and Bourbon First each recorded five wins at the meet to lead all horses on the grounds.

Along with the introduction of the new Tapeta main track in April, Woodbine made a concerted effort to run more races on turf this season, which led to the introduction of clockwise turf racing in June. Woodbine ran 22 clockwise turf races between June and October. In all, the track ran 236 turf races in 2016, up from 178 in 2015. The final turf race of the meet was run Nov. 20, marking the first time the track has had a turf race in November since 2009.

“The clockwise-turf-racing concept added a fresh dimension to our racing program and attracted attention from across the world,” said Tom Via, Woodbine’s senior vice president of operations. “We have a great gem of a racecourse in the E.P. Taylor Turf Course, and turf racing at Woodbine is thriving. The Tapeta and the turf track will continue to be strong complementary offerings for our horsepeople.”

Woodbine will once again run a 133-day meet in 2017, with opening day scheduled for April 15.