By Dick Downey
Franklin, KY -- Kentucky Downs established purse and handle numbers that set new records for the second straight year at the unique track.
The projected initial purse structure for the meet totaled more than $4 million over five days, compared to a goal of $2.5 million for six days in 2012.
With one day of last year's meet canceled following overnight and morning rains, $2,066,344 was paid out for 43 races, which was a record. This year, Kentucky Downs paid out $4,121,142 in purses and Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund money for 50 races. That established a new record and represented an increase of 103.9% percent from a year ago. The purses were augmented by revenue derived from pari-mutuel wagering on historical horse races, which accounted for more than 70% of the total.
Last year, handle from all sources for five days of racing was a record $7,570,730, about double the 2011 total, when there were four race days -- resulting in a 61.3% increase in daily average handle.
This year's handle far surpassed that of 2012. The total over five days was $12,814,966, a year-over-year increase of 69%. The track set new records for daily handle on the first, fourth and fifth days of the meeting. The latter two days fell on Wednesdays.
On-track handle, $550,757 in 2012, jumped to $645,343, which is 19% higher than last year. In 2011, the meet total was $313,561.
With purse money and handle up, so was the number of horses running at the track. There were a total of 496 starters during the meet's 50 races, resulting in an average of 9.90 starters per race -- compared to 9.56 in 2012 and 8.76 in 2011.
A first-ever event at the track took place three days after the meet opened when a fund-raising dinner and silent auction was held for the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund. Hall of Fame jockeys Gary Stevens, Pat Day, Chris McCarron, Randy Romero and Eddie Maple attended and spoke about their careers. Calvin Borel joined them before the races the next day while the group signed autographs to raise more money for the Fund. Track President Corey Johnsen said he plans to hold a similar event in 2014.
"This season showed what can be accomplished when we all work together,” said Johnsen. "We were proud to offer quality racing with a low takeout, and horseplayers responded with record handle.
"What impressed me most about the season," Johnsen said, "was that we had top quality horses, trainers and jockeys from all over the country. And, in my opinion, we had some terrific races, showcasing our great sport at the highest level."
Highlighting the meet was Temeraine''s victory in the $399,000 Grade III Kentucky Turf Cup on Sept. 14. Stevens was aboard in his first-ever race at the track for trainer Tom Proctor and Timothy B. Turney's and Patrick F. Turney's Niall Racing. The purse for the Turf Cup was doubled from 2012. To prepare for the race, Stevens jogged around the course on his own power.
On that same card, owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey tasted victory in three stakes races. Coalport won the Franklin-Simpson Mile, Longhunter took the Turf Dash and Lien on Kitten was triumphant in the Kentucky Downs Juvenile Fillies. The Kentucky Downs Juvenile was won by the outstanding Iowa-bred, Boji Moon.
On Sept. 7, opening day, The Kentucky Downs Ladies Marathon was won by Mystical Star, trained by Christophe Clement, with Brice Blanc up. The Kentucky Downs Ladies Turf went to Dancing to Town, and the Kentucky Downs Ladies Sprint was won by To My Valentine. Like the other stakes on Sept. 14, each race carried an announced purse of $150,000.
Not a single incident or jockey spill marred the meet, and with only two exceptions, every starter finished every race.
Rosie Naprvavnik, riding at Kentucky Downs for the first time, won the jockey competition with eight victories. She took five races on day 4 of the meet. Channing Hill was runner-up with six wins.
Wayne Catalano took the training title with 10 wins. The most amazing trainer-jockey feat came when Channing Hill rode four winners for Catalano on Sept. 14. They combined for two more wins on the final day of the meet. Mike Maker was second with six victories.
The owner title went to Ken and Sarah Ramsey, who notched nine victories in all, including four debut winners sired by the Ramsey stallion Kitten's Joy. They racked up four wins during the meet's final day with four different jockeys.