12/11/2014 4:08PM

Woodbine sees small declines in handle, field size


ETOBICOKE, Ontario – Despite a strong closing-day card last Sunday, total wagering at Woodbine was down slightly for the second consecutive year.

All-sources wagering was $393,871,491 for the 133-day meet, down 2.9 percent from last year’s total of $405,559,284. Average daily handle was $2,961,440, down 4.3 percent from $3,095,872 in 2013. Woodbine operated two more days of racing this season than in 2013, although the remainder of the July 16 card was canceled after six races.

The average field size during the meet was 8.52 horses, down from 8.7 horses per race in 2013. Field size in stakes races increased, however, as an average of 7.75 horses contested 114 Woodbine stakes races this season, up from 7.68 horses in 2013 stakes.

Strong wagering during the Queen’s Plate card highlighted the meet July 6. A total of $9.1 million was wagered on 13 races on Queen’s Plate Day in 2014, down 6.8 percent from the record-setting handle of $9.7 million wagered on 12 races during the 2013 Queen’s Plate card.

Woodbine Entertainment Group’s chief operating officer, Sean Pinsonneault, said a slow start to the meet was a contributing factor to the year-over-year decrease.

“We held steady over 2013 considering our slow start,” Pinsonneault said in a statement. “We came off one of the worst winters in recent memory, and the horses weren’t quite ready in the meet, and field size suffered. We saw a strong rebound in the second half of the season, such that we are buoyed by our prospects for growth in 2015 and beyond.”

Patrick Husbands won his seventh Woodbine riding title and his first since 2009, notching 170 wins for the meet. Husbands also led the Woodbine jockey colony in purse earnings, stakes wins, and graded stakes wins and won his second Queen’s Plate with Lexie Lou.

Trainer Mark Casse captured his elusive first Queen’s Plate victory in 2014 while finishing the meet as Woodbine’s leading trainer for the eighth consecutive season. Casse finished the meet with 93 wins, and like Husbands, he led all Woodbine trainers in purse earnings, stakes wins, and graded stakes wins.

John Oxley led all owners with 30 wins on the season and had purse earnings of $2.2 million, leading all Woodbine owners in that category for the third straight year.

Calgary Cat led all horses in wins with five from seven starts, including a pair of graded stakes victories in the Grade 2 Kennedy Road and the Grade 3 Bold Venture.

Woodbine once again will operate a 133-day meet in 2015, with opening day scheduled for April 11.