When Holy Dixieland crossed the wire first in the ninth race on Friday night, the curtain was brought down on a year of racing at Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races for the 84th time. And after its 2016 live racing season closed with its fifth straight seven-figure all-sources handle total, the 1,375 races held at Charles Town over the year had produced a new annual record with $116,184 bet per race. 2016 marks the second consecutive year the wagering per race record has fallen as the $116,184 figure represents a 4.05% increase over the prior high of $111,664 established in 2015.
Also on the wagering front, Charles Town Classic day in April produced the track's second largest single card hard handle with $4,424,048 wagered on the 13 race program, with in excess of $1.7 million bet on the Charles Town Classic itself. In September, the Race for the Ribbon program became the fourth largest non-Charles Town Classic day handle in track history and West Virginia Breeders' Classics XXX turned out to be the most popular in the event's history with bettors as $1,753,601 was wagered on the card, easily topping the mark of $1,576,267 established in 2013.
The full list of all-time pari-mutuel marks set in 2016 includes:
- Highest all-sources handle per race ($116,184)
- Highest export handle per race ($110,623)
- Highest August handle per race ($100,352)
- Highest September handle per race ($116,599)
- Highest October handle per race ($120,655)
- Highest November handle per race ($119,754)
- Highest December handle per race ($122,666)
- Largest West Virginia Breeders' Classics handle ($1,753,601)
- Largest Exacta pool (April 23 – $359,868)
- Largest Pick 4 pool (April 23 – $292,563)
Additionally, each dollar in purses paid in 2016 produced $6.51 in pari-mutuel handle, easily toping the gaming era record amount of $5.90 for each dollar in purses paid set back in 2012. Since 2009 alone, pari-mutuel handle produced for each dollar in purses paid has increased 55% ($6.51 versus $4.20), while handle per race has risen 37.7% ($116,184 versus $84,373).
“To set another record for wagering volume per race in the face of some obstacles speaks volumes about the quality and dedication of our entire team here at Charles Town,” said vice president of racing operations Erich Zimny. “We'd also like to thank both our business partners for their contributions to our operations in 2016 and the horseplayers whose interest in our racing has helped in spurring on our success. We look forward to the challenge of trying to top it all in 2017.”
For a fifth straight year, Jose Montano – the 2012 Eclipse Award winner as the country's top apprentice rider – ended the campaign on top of the jockey standings. Montano's 165 wins in 634 starts put him 11 wins ahead of runner-up Arnaldo Bocachica and 56 in front of Antonio Lopez. Despite Montano getting the best of Bocachica in the wins department, Bocachica won the earnings crown among riders as his mounts amassed total winnings of $2,736,276. 2016 also saw Bocachica add his first graded stakes win to his resume when he piloted Covey Trace to victory in the Grade 3 Charles Town Oaks.
While Montano's streak on top of the jockey standings might seem long, he still has a way to go to match the name at the top of the trainer standings as conditioner Jeff Runco took the top spot for an eleventh straight year. In 2016, Runco saddled 145 winners at Charles Town and 167 winners in total, which will allow him to finish among the country's top 25 trainers for a ninth straight year. The 57 year old Runco also ended the year within 158 wins of 4,000 in his career – a feat that's only been currently accomplished by 10 other trainers in North American racing history. Ronney Brown finished second in the trainer standings with 112 winners.
On April 23, Charles Town hosted the eighth running of the Charles Town Classic. With its $1.25 million purse, the Charles Town Classic was the country's co-richest thoroughbred race in the country in 2016. The race again brought a cross-section of horses from around the country, including a strong group from California in 2015 Gold Cup at Santa Anita (G1) winner Hard Aces, 2014 Charles Town Classic champ Imperative and eventual race favorite Donworth from the Doug O'Neill barn. However, none of them could catch Javier Castellano and Stanford who lead every step of the way and beat the popular mid-atlantic star Page McKenney by two lengths to notch the biggest win of his career to date. The Malibu Moon colt owned in partnership by Stonestreet Stables, Susan Magnier, Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith allowed Castellano to become the first jockey to win two Charles Town Classics, while Todd Pletcher also notched his second victory in West Virginia's richest race. Pletcher and Castellano teamed up in 2012 to win the Charles Town Classic with Caixa Eletronica.
Charles Town hosted its second graded race in September as the $350,000 Charles Town Oaks (G3) served as the feature on the eighth Race for the Ribbon card. While Pletcher and Castellano had the heavily favored Sophia's Song in the Oaks, it was the Bill Denzik trained Covey Trace with Bocachica aboard who stole the show coming out on top in photo finish over Mia Torri. Race for the Ribbon day was punctuated by a series of events to help raise money for breast cancer care and research, with nearly $20,000 ultimately raised for the West Virginia Affiliate of the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure Foundation.
West Virginia Breeders' Classics XXX took place on October 8 and saw the Mark Russell owned and James W. Casey trained Charitable Annuity go for a repeat in the featured $500,000 West Virginia Breeders' Classic. However, Coleswood Farm's Slip the Cable, stretching out to 1 1/8 miles for the first time, wired the field and posted an easy 7 1/2 length victory as the 2.50-to-1 second choice. Slip the Cable was one of three winners Runco trained on the Breeders' Classics card while all was not lost for Casey as he also took home a trio of trophies for wins by Greenway Court, Candy Man's Girl and Scottish Dennis on the night.
The successes of the night were bittersweet for both Casey and Russell as they also bid farewell to the longtime face of the West Virginia-bred program as their ten-year-old Russell Road was honored in a retirement ceremony before the races. Russell Road retired with 31 wins in 62 career starts and trails only Soul of the Matter on the list of all-time West Virginia-bred earners with more than $2 million banked over his eight year career. Casey himself reached a milestone in 2016 when he recorded his 1,000th win as a trainer on October 12.
As the year drew to a close at Charles Town, the track announced its plans for 2017, which includes 166 live racing days, headlined by the $1,250,000 Charles Town Classic (G2) on April 22 and Race for the Ribbon day punctuated by the $300,000 Charles Town Oaks (G3) on September 23. The third of the track's event days, West Virginia Breeders' Classics XXXI, is scheduled for October 14.
Charles Town's 2016 racing season kicks off on Thursday, January 11, with post time for the first race scheduled for 7:00pm EST.
HOLLYWOOD CASINO AT CHARLES TOWN RACES YEAR-END STATISTICAL RECAP
|2016||2015||Diff ($)||Diff (%)|
|Avg. Live Handle/Race||$5,561||$5,901||($340)||-5.76%|
|Avg. Export Handle/Race||$110,623||$105,763||$4,860||4.60%|
|Avg. All-Sources Handle/Race||$116,184||$111,664||$4,520||4.05%|
|* Preliminary, unaudited figures|
|2016 LEADERS BY WINS|
|T1.||Ellie's Lil Man||6||1.||Jose Montano||165||1.||Jeff Runco||145|
|T1.||Noble Hustle||6||2.||Arnaldo Bocachica||154||2.||Ronney Brown||112|
|T1.||Chasin Rush||6||3.||Antonio Lopez||109||T3.||James W. Casey||66|
|T4.||7 Tied||5||4.||Christian Hiraldo||94||T3.||Ollie Figgins, III||66|
|5.||Gerald Almodovar||82||5.||Tim Grams||55|
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