Churchill Downs reported that daily purses were up 9.2% for the weather-shortened fall meet, which concluded Nov. 30.
Purses paid during the 24-day meet totaled $8,617,940, up 4.8% from the $8,222,779 for 25 days of racing at the same stand in 2013. Average daily purses totaled $359,081, compared with $328,911 a year ago. There were 250 races with a total of 2,140 starters during this year's fall meet, compared with 254 races run in 2013.
The average number of horses per race during the 24 days of racing was 8.56, which was down 2.4% compared with the average of 8.77 horses per race during the corresponding meet in 2013.
Churchill Downs Inc., does not release handle and attendance figures except for major race days such as the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) and Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) days.
An early winter blast forced the cancellation of back-to-back racing days during the fall meet for the first time in more than four decades. An unusually early winter combination of a three-inch snowfall and temperatures that plunged into single-digits combined to freeze the main track Nov. 17. Ongoing below-average temperatures and a slow thaw prompted track officials to cancel live racing programs planned for Nov. 19-20 as well.
The Nov. 19 cancellation was the first winter weather-related cancellation since Nov. 13, 1986 and the back-to-back cancellations on Nov. 19-20 were the first since a frozen track forced cancellation Nov. 23-24, 1970. Track superintendent David Lehr's 26-person team worked around-the-clock throughout the week to get the one-mile surface back in shape for a resumption of training and racing Nov. 21.
“We faced challenges—expected and unexpected—during the fall meet, but our racetrack team responded strongly in dealing with those issues and our fans continued to support us during the remainder of the meet that, as a whole, was very satisfying,” said Kevin Flanery, president of Churchill Downs. “We are deeply grateful to our horsemen for their patience and support during our uncommon stretch of winter weather, and to all of the teams at our track.”
It was a busy meet at the claiming box, with 139 horses claimed during the 24 days for a total of $2,732,000, which generated $163,920 in sales tax revenue for the state of Kentucky.
There was a tie for leading owner at 12 wins apiece between all-time Churchill Downs win leaders Ken and Sarah Ramsey and Gary and Mary West. The title for the Ramseys was their record-extending 23rd overall and 12th fall meet crown. The tie provided the Wests with their first title at the track.
Louisville native Dale Romans saddled 14 winners to earn his 12th training title at the track. Romans edged Wayne Catalano by one in a race that came down to the meet's final day.
Corey Lanerie, with 36 winners, secured his fifth straight riding crown at Churchill Downs. Shaun Bridgmohan finished second (25 wins) and Julien Leparoux (24) was third.
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