Record Off-Track Handle, Attendance Boom Trigger Strong Start To Oaklawn Meet

by | 01.31.2019 | 2:04pm

Business for Oaklawn's first three days racing produced huge gains over 2018, highlighted by a January record for off-track pari-mutuel handle.

According to figures released by Oaklawn, total estimated attendance of 55,500 for Friday, Saturday and Sunday represented a 62 percent increase over the corresponding period last year. On-track handle of $2,938,316 was up 23 percent, while off-track handle of $11,310,359 increased 22.3 percent. Total mutuel handle on Oaklawn's races was $14,248,675, a jump of 22.5 percent from 2018.

Saturday's estimated attendance of 28,000 and total handle of $6,038,759 on the nine races were the second-highest January figures in Oaklawn history. A January record $4,629,704 was handled off track Saturday.

Oaklawn opened two weeks later than previous years to accommodate an extended season that concludes May 4, Kentucky Derby Day.

“Opening a couple of weeks later than usual, not only were the horsemen ready and the horses ready, but the town was ready,” Oaklawn President Louis Cella said. “We're tickled to death.”

Friday's estimated attendance was 20,000, the highest for opening day since 2011. Saturday featured the annual price-rollback promotion, with corned beef sandwiches and soft drinks reduced to 50 cents and 10 cents, respectively.

Oaklawn hadn't had an opening-weekend crowd of 20,000 since 2012 (it opened Jan. 13 that year).

Oaklawn's record January attendance (32,288) came in 1988, the first year the track opened in that month. Saturday's on-track handle of $1,409,055 was the highest in January since 2012.

“It's our fans,” Cella said. “Our fans love horse racing. They love the fifth season. They love coming to Oaklawn and we obviously benefit from that. We're so appreciative of that, because no other track in America has the fan base that we have.”

Oaklawn set a single-day January record for total handle, $6,213,532, in 1998. That figure included a record $4,197,950 wagered off track.

Oaklawn estimates attendance after waiving admission in 2015.

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