Handle, revenue up as Delaware Park meet nears end

Posted: Oct. 12, 2017

Delaware Park through September reported positive business indicators for its 2017 meet, according to information discussed Oct. 11 at the Delaware Thoroughbred Racing Commission meeting.

There were four fewer racing days in the survey period—opening day June 3 through Sept. 30—because of a later-than-usual start. The 81-day meet concludes Oct. 21.

Kevin DeLucia, Senior Vice President of Racing and Finance at Delaware Park, said “the best indicator of how the meet is going” is that total revenue per race was up 2.8% from last year. Total pari-mutuel handle per race day was up 4.5% through Sept. 30, he said.

“All in all, we’re ahead, and knock on wood we will be ahead in handle and revenue (when the meet ends),” DeLucia told the racing commission.

The numbers, reported to the Delaware Secretary of State, show Thoroughbred wagering per race day was up about 1% while handle on Arabian races—thanks in part to several large show pools—jumped 10%. DeLucia said there was a 24% increase in the number of Arabian races through September because of a “huge push” by the Arabian racing industry to get more horses to stable in Delaware.

The report also states that handle on turf races, given an increase in starters per race, was up as well through September. In 2016 revenue generated by turf races was flat, but this year it has increased.

“Maybe it has just been a matter of better racing,” DeLucia said.

(After the meet ended, it was reported that total handle was $95,768,895, up 1.9% from $93,952,394 in 2016. Both meets were 81 days. Average number of starters per race was 7.14, down 1.2% from 7.23 last year. DeLucia said track officials are pleased with the increase but are “well aware of challenges” ahead given conflicting dates at neighboring tracks and a competitive casino environment in the region.)

The DTRC at its meeting briefly discussed a new regulation in Pennsylvania by which horses are banned from racing for a period of time after confirmatory tests for Class 1, 2 and 3 substances, as well as for elevated TCO2 levels. Regulatory agencies in Maryland and New Jersey also have begun discussions on the regulation.

DTRC member Henry Decker said he believes the policy could be a “tremendous deterrent” if “more than one state does it.” He requested additional information on how many states in the Mid-Atlantic region plan to consider the regulation.

DTRC Chairman Duncan Patterson noted that the Association of Racing Commissioners International is looking at the Pennsylvania regulation.

“I truly believe it’s something that’s going to be adopted nationally, but it takes time to get everybody on board,” he said.

The DTRC also gave its blessing to a rule proposed by Delaware Park stewards to formally keep trainers who aren’t saddling a horse for a race out of the paddock based on complaints some are closely examining horses they are interesting in claiming. Steward James Lages said officials can void claims under such circumstances.

Lages said it has been an “unspoken” rule and a “custom of the Turf” not to visit the paddock for the purpose of a claiming a horse, but there is no official rule on the books. Racing commissioners supported the rule even though they acknowledged others in the paddock can easily pass information on to trainers about the condition of horse they may want to claim.

(Delaware Park photo by Tom LaMarra)