Single Day, Meet Handle Records Shattered
By Dick Downey
Horses from all over North America, including some of the best marathoners in the nation, pointed to the Kentucky Downs meet for its top-rate purses and high-level competition.
Originally scheduled to card 10 races per day for five days, 13 were run during each of the final two days after eight races were lost on day two due to safety concerns when rains fell on the 1 5/16-mile, all-turf Franklin, Ky. track.
The final day of the meet produced a single-day record for all sources handle, $5,071,415. Total handle also hit an all-time high of $16,887,188, a 6.3 percent increase over the previous mark that was achieved despite running two fewer races and moving an entire Saturday card to a Monday, again due to safety concerns..
The highlight of the meet, the $600,000 Grade III Kentucky Turf Cup, was won by Da Big Hoss, who captured the 1 1/2-mile race in a time of 2:33.40 on good turf after sitting back off the pace under Joe Rocco, Jr.
Florent Geroux won the riding title with 12 victories even though he wasn't present for the final card of the meet. That total came from 28 starts, a 43% success rate that resulted in $1,180,286 purse money. Rocco was second with seven wins, and Julien Leparoux came in third with six.
Geroux acknowledged the track's effort to keep the course in safe condition.
“As a rider, I’d like to thank the Kentucky Downs management for keeping the turf course in such good condition," he said. “Obviously, they had some weather issues, but they did a fantastic job keeping it in great shape. It’s always a pleasure to get to ride at such a unique race course.”
The training competition was won by Mike Maker with eight victories out of 29 starts, a 29% strike rate yielding purses of $700,740. Mark Casse ran second with five wins and purse money of $576,659. Bill Mott had two wins and earnings of $416,219.
Ken and Sarah Ramsey won more races than any owner with four. Skychai Racing LLC led in purse money with $352,980, followed by John Oxley with $334,895.
The previous best single day of handle at Kentucky Downs was $4,253,567 on a 10-race card in 2014, which shattered the previous wagering record of $3,371,476 set on a 13-race card on closing day of the 2013. This year's single-day handle on Sept. 19 was 19 percent more than the previous best.
The projected initial purse structure for the meet totaled more than $7.5 millon compared $5 million in 2014 for five days, $4 million in 2013 for five days and $2.5 million for six days in 2012.
In 2014, total handle was $15,880,755, easily surpassing by 23.9% the 2013 total of $12,814,966, which was a year-over-year increase of 69% from 2012, when the track drew $7,570,730 in wagers on its live racing product. That year was about double the 2011 total, when there were four race days.
Average field size increased again. This year, there were an average of 10.6 starters per race. The track averaged 10.2 starters per race in 2014. In 2013, there were 9.90 starters per race, compared to 9.56 in 2012 and 8.76 in 2011.
“We would like to thank the horsemen and the horseplayers”, said Kentucky Downs’ Live Racing Manger C.J. Johnsen. “This meet showcased some of the best turf racing in the country. I was especially impressed with the contingent of two year olds that ran here. The maiden, allowance level, and stakes races for that age were some of the deepest and most competitive of the meet. We had horses from all over North America that pointed to our meet which showed the improved quality of our course.
"Our track crew, headed by Track Superintendent Ron Moore, deserves all the credit. They worked tirelessly to prepare the course for the meet and when the weather came, they worked harder to make sure it was safe for the horses and the jockeys.”