Kentucky Downs started September with a record-setting live race meet and concluded with the track's best month ever for historical horse racing, topping $42 million in wagering on the innovative gaming technology that adheres to pari-mutuel methodology while patrons wager on previously-run races.
“September gave us a glimpse of the blue sky ahead for Kentucky racing and breeding,” said Corey Johnsen, president and part-owner of Kentucky Downs, whose unique all-turf meet is conducted over America's only European-style course. “Historically, September is a very average wagering month, given the competition for patrons' attention and discretionary dollars. To set all-time records with both live racing and historical horse racing is very impressive.
“I have always believed that pari-mutuel wagering on live and historical horse racing complement each other and raise the level of interest for all products.”
An all-time record of $42,125,656 was bet on historical horse racing at Kentucky Downs during September, an average of $1,404,189 for the 30 days. The previous record month was August, when $40,762,466 was bet. The high-water mark for historical horse racing in September had been the $29,508,199 wagered last year.
For the first nine months of 2016, betting on historical horse racing at the track totaled $344,783,850, up 35 percent over the $255,183,081 for the corresponding span in 2015. Since April 2015, Kentucky Downs has offered the Exacta Systems type of historical horse racing games.
Thanks to historical horse racing, Kentucky Downs offered the highest purses in North America for maiden and allowance races, paying out a record $7,885,979 for an average of $1,577,195 a day for its five-date meet that ended Sept. 15. That money attracted quality and quantity that appealed to horseplayers.
Betting on the race meet increased 34 percent over last year's record, totaling $22,540,761.22 for an average of $4,508,152 a day. On-track handle totaled $929,409, a 48-percent increase over 2015. Field sizes averaged 10.96 starters per race, best in the country and — combined with some of the lowest takeout rates for betting on horses — a major reason why the Horseplayers Association of North America has Kentucky Downs as its top-ranked track.
Historical horse racing, which the track installed five years ago, has contributed about $23 million to Kentucky Downs' purses and Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund purse supplements for Kentucky-bred horses in non-claiming races, a program designed to keep those horses racing in the commonwealth.
“Kentucky racing is decidedly on the upswing, and a major reason is Kentucky Downs and how its ownership has embraced using historical horse racing as a means to better the sport,” said Marty Maline, executive director of the Kentucky division of the Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, which represents owners and trainers racing in the state. “Kentucky Downs is a shining example of how the two forms of gambling can energize and benefit one another when properly implemented and promoted. Everybody, including the state's General Fund, comes out a winner.”
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