Delaware numbers down, but track, horsemen extend agreement
From a Delaware Park release
The 79th live racing season at Delaware Park concluded with a drop in total handle (on-track live and simulcast-out) on Saturday, October 15th. On the bright side, however, it also concluded with the signing of a one-year extension of the contract between the Delaware Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association (DTHA) and Delaware Park which means that the track will conduct 81 days of live racing in 2017.
“With the agreement in place, we can focus all of our energy on the historical 80th season in 2017,” said Kevin DeLucia, Senior Vice-President of Racing/Finance at Delaware Park. “The stability and certainty of our next season will help us continue the positive momentum established last season of attracting additional horsemen to Delaware so we can continue to offer quality and exciting racing in the highly competitive Mid-Atlantic region.”
The track and the DTHA will also hold an end-of-meet showcase, an open house for horse shoppers to come to the track on Sunday, October 23 to meet retiring horses for sale.
Total handle for the 81-day meet was $93,952,394 as compared to $104,789,404 from the 81-day meet last year, a decrease of 10.3%. The average per race day handle of $1,159,906 was also down 10.3% from the 2015 average of $1,293,696. While handle numbers were down, average starters per race rose slightly. Average starters per race was 7.23 in 2016 as compared to 7.08 in 2015, reflecting an increase of 2.0%.
“The drop in handle was disappointing, but it is a direct indication of the competitive racing environment in the Mid-Atlantic and the ever-increasing conflicting dates from other racetracks in the region,” said DeLucia. “Starters per race increased slightly despite no longer having horses stabled on the grounds from five-time leading owner Midwest Thoroughbreds for the first time since 2009. We also have an agreement in place with horsemen for next year which will help us continue the positive momentum of attracting additional quality horsemen to the Delaware Valley. We are looking forward to our historical 80th season of live racing and overcoming the challenges before us.”
The Delaware Handicap was run as a Grade I race for the fourth time since 1989. On July 16th, Fletcher and Carolyn Gray’s locally-based I’m a Chatterbox posted a thrilling 2 1/2-length victory in the filly and mare summer classic. The 4-year-old daughter of Munnings is conditioned by long-time Delaware Park-based trainer J. Larry Jones.
“Traditionally, the Delaware Handicap has always been a stepping stone on the path to the filly and mare divisional championship,” said John Mooney, the Executive Director of Racing. “The recent renewals have solidified its position on the national calendar and fulfilled the vision of the track founders in making Delaware Park a filly and mare showcase track. I congratulate the connections of I’m a Chatterbox on her Delaware Handicap and Juddmonte Spinster victories this year. We are looking forward to her having a strong performance in the in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff on November 4th.”
Jockey Carol Cedeno notched her third straight riding title by recording 79 winners. Jamie Ness won leading trainer honors by notching 38 winners. This is the fourth leading trainer championship for Ness, who also won the title in 2012, 2013 and 2015. Jagger Inc. won the leading owner title by notching 14 wins.