Total handle on live product at Delaware Park up almost 17%

By: Tom LaMarra

Posted: Oct. 25, 2018

Delaware Park reported a solid increase in total pari-mutuel handle on its live product in 2018 despite the loss of almost 20% of its scheduled turf races, officials reported Oct. 24.

Wagering on the live product over the course of 81 days totaled $112,041,057, an increase of 16.99% from $95,768,897 for the same number of days in 2017. The daily average this year was $1.383 million versus $1.182 million in 2017.

With 122 grass races this year compared with 150 last year, average field size declined 6.86% from 7.14 horses per race to 6.65.

“We are certainly encouraged by the final handle figure despite the challenges we faced this year,” said Kevin DeLucia, Senior Vice President of Racing/Finance at Delaware Park, which concluded its meet Oct. 20. “The historic rainfall that resulted in the significant decrease of turf racing also contributed to the drop in average starters per race.”

The final turf races of the meet were scheduled for Sept. 29, but those races were switched to the dirt track. There were no turf races listed in the condition book for the final three weeks of the meet.

Regular rainfall was an issue in the Mid-Atlantic region as Parx Racing and Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course ended turf racing early, and Laurel Park lost turf races in September and October.

Delaware Park this year worked with the New York Racing Association on export of its signal and other simulcast matters.

“I think we did a better job of placing some of our cards and even individual races in spots attractive to horse players on the national stage,” DeLucia said. “Having opening day on the Wednesday after Memorial Day instead of our traditional opening on Saturday is one example. Consequently, we had some very good days and individual races towards the beginning of the meet, and that momentum helped carry us through all of those days in August, September and October when we had to transfer so many turf races to the main track.

“I think we also benefited from industry-wide handle figures being up despite slightly smaller field size.”

Jagger Inc., and operation led by trainer Jamie Ness, topped the owner standings for the meet with 23 wins in 85 starts. Ness in turn was the leading trainer for the sixth time at Delaware Park with 41 winners. Carol Cedeno, who won the riding title from 2014-2016, returned to the top with 100 victories.

Delaware Park management and the Delaware Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association are currently in negotiations for a new contract, so the racing schedule for 2019 is not yet official. The two parties had been operating on one-year contract extensions that called for 81 programs each year.

(Delaware Park photo by Tom LaMarra)