By Dick Downey
Handle More Than Doubles in Two Years
Franklin, KY -- Kentucky Downs concluded its five-day September meet after running 50 races in what was, for the most part, beautiful fall weather. Record numbers were established once again.
For the third straight year, purse and handle numbers exceeded the previous year. The projected initial purse structure for the meet totaled more than $5 million over five days, compared to $4 million for five days last year and $2.5 million for six days in 2012.
All-sources handle also set a new mark of $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.
On-track handle was $741,543, up 15% from last year's total of $645,343. It was $550,757 in 2012, and in 2011, the meet total was $313,561.
With purse money and handle up, the number of horses running at the track increased as well, with an average of 10.2 starters per race. In 2013, when there were also 50 races, there were 9.90 starters per race, compared to 9.56 in 2012 and 8.76 in 2011.
“We are extremely gratified with the success of this year’s live meet,” said Kentucky Downs President Corey Johnsen. “We had tremendous support from horsemen and racing fans and are proud of the quality of live racing that we were able to offer. Many of the nation’s top trainers raced horses with us this year, and our jockey colony was second to none.”
“Surpassing last year’s previous record handle by almost 24% is an accomplishment the Kentucky Downs team is very proud of. On track crowds were very enthusiastic, showing a 15% increase in handle over last year. We have a lot of momentum, and are looking forward to what the future has to offer for Thoroughbred racing at Kentucky Downs,” Johnsen concluded.
The second annual fund-raising dinner and silent auction for the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund was a highlight of the meet. Laffit Pincay, Jr., Pat Day, Chris McCarron, Randy Romero, Calvin Borel and Rafael Bejarano were in attendance along with the legendary trainer Jack Van Berg. Before the races the next day, most of the group signed autographs to raise more money for the PDJF. On closing day, Ron Turcotte, who famously rode Secretariat to Triple Crown glory in 1973, signed for fans and the PDJF.
Horses for Hope was awarded a check for $2,500.00 by the track during the meet, and Old Friends Farm was benefited by autographs signed by Rosie Napravnik.
Highlighting the meet was Suntracer's victory in the $600,000 Grade III Kentucky Cup Turf on Sept. 13. Florent Geroux was aboard for trainer Chris Block and owner Team Block. The purse was increased substantially from 2013. It was Team Block's second win of the Kentucky Cup Turf in the last three years.
On that same card, Regally Ready, a son of More Than Ready, won the newly-named More Than Ready Mile Stakes, Richies Party Girl won the Kentucky Downs Ladies Sprint, and the Kentucky Downs Ladies Turf Stakes was taken by I'm Already Sexy.
On Sept. 6, opening day, the Kentucky Downs Juvenile Stakes was won by Croninthebarbarian, Nicky's Brown Miss was victorious in the Kentucky Downs Juvenile Fillies Stakes, and the inaugural Dueling Grounds Derby was won by longshot My Afleet.
Closing day saw three more stakes races. Two divisions of the Kentucky Downs Ladies Marathon were won by White Rose and Angel Terrace, respectively, and the Kentucky Downs Turf Dash went to Dimension.
Napravnik and Julien Leparoux tied for the the jockey title with seven victories apiece. Wesley Ward took the training title for the third time, garnering seven wins. Mike Maker was second with four wins.
The owner title went to Ken and Sarah Ramsey, who notched four victories in all. They also had three second place finishes and earnings of over $264,000.