Is Horse Racing Dead? Not in Canada

Woodbine Racecourse Reports Big Year in 2023

TORONTO, December, 2023 – Woodbine Entertainment announced the 2023 Thoroughbred season produced an all-sources handle of $613,125,180 CAD. This is the second largest single-season handle in Woodbine’s history, but down $8 million from 2022.

“Our 2023 Thoroughbred racing meet produced very strong results thanks to our exciting racing product, the strength of the Woodbine brand, and the hard work of our team and the entire horse racing community,” said Michael Copeland, CEO, Woodbine Entertainment. “The results are especially encouraging considering the industry trends our sport is facing with increased competition from sports betting, growing purses in some jurisdictions largely due to ancillary gaming revenues, extreme weather factors that have cancelled an unprecedented number of race cards, North American horse supply, and larger macroeconomic factors like inflation and the uncertainty of the U.S. dollar.

Woodbine via WO FB page“While we are proud of our results, we cannot be complacent, and we need to focus on the industry trends and other opportunities that will help us navigate these headwinds.”

In 2023, a total of 1,180 races were contested over 128 dates of racing compared to 1,198 races over 132 dates in 2022. Woodbine ran four less dates and 18 less races in 2023 due to an unprecedented number of cancelled race cards (5) because of extreme heat and poor air quality caused by smoke from forest fires across Canada.

Healthy Average Field Size at Woodbine

The average field size for those races was 8.2, the same as 2022, and above the industry average.

In Ontario, wagering on Woodbine Thoroughbred racing by customers across the province was down 6.2% ($81.8 million this season vs $87.2 million in 2022).

The decline in home market wagering was partially mitigated by a foreign market handle of $512 million, a decrease from $515 million in 2022, though still a remarkable gain from the previous record of $420 million in 2021. The $512 million in foreign market handle was supported by a strong U.S. dollar.

The average handle per race in 2023 was a record $519,597. This is an increase of $580 per race from 2022.

To address the increased competition from an emerging licensed sports betting market, Woodbine Entertainment announced a partnership with global sports betting leader bet365 prior to The King’s Plate. It includes the integration of pari-mutuel horse racing into bet365’s licensed sportsbook platform in Ontario. Woodbine plans to integrate its racing product in additional licensed Ontario sports books in 2024 in hopes of generating increased handle in the province and engagement with a new audience.

“We are operating on a very solid foundation that positions us well to manage the current industry and economic trends,” added Copeland. “We also have opportunities before us that have not been fully realized yet, like the integration of racing into licensed sportsbooks, which will have a positive impact.”

Key Highlights – 2023 at Woodbine

  • Second highest single-season all-sources handle ($613M) in Woodbine history
  • Second highest single-season foreign handle ($512M) in Woodbine history
  • Record-breaking average per-race handle of $519,597
  • Average field size of 8.2 (above North American industry average)
  • Woodbine saw the return of the King’s Plate for the first time in over 70 years with winner Paramount Prince. The total all-sources wagering on King’s Plate day was a record $18,127,049
  • The integration of pari-mutuel racing into bet365’s licensed online sports book in Ontario

The 2024 Woodbine Thoroughbred season is scheduled to begin on Saturday, April 27. The 165th running of The King’s Plate will take place on Saturday, August 17.

For the latest information on Woodbine Racetrack, visit Woodbine.com or follow @WoodbineTB or @WoodbineComms on Twitter.

Is Horse Racing Dead? Not in Upstate New York

Wagering Up 16.5 Percent At Finger Lakes In 2022

Impressive performances at the mutuel windows and on the track highlighted the 61st season of Thoroughbred horse racing at Finger Lakes Gaming & Racetrack in Farmington, N.Y.

Despite one less day of racing, 89 in total, and 25 fewer races, all-sources total handle was $101,480,490, a spike of 16.5 percent. The average daily handle was $1,140,230 for the meet that concluded on Nov. 23.

On-track wagering also saw a double-digit increase of 12.8%, with wagering of $1,969,344. There were a total of 730 races run during the meet…

Is Horse Racing Dead? Not in New Mexico

Returning meet at Sunland Park Racetrack & Casino wraps up on positive note

The 55-day 2021-22 Sunland Park meet is in the books and after Sunday’s last race, it can be considered a success.

In March of 2020, the Sunland Derby and the final few weeks of the season was canceled due to the COVID-19 virus. The 2020-21 season never happened as the casino stayed closed until early March of 2021. With the closing of the casino, that in turn affected racing since casino money is used to help the money allotted for horse racing purses.

But the racetrack opened in December and the Sunland meet found success. The Sunland Derby returned on March 27 with Slow Down Andy winning and earning 50 qualifying points for the Kentucky Derby. Nearly $3.5 million was wagered during the 12 races on Sunland Derby day and there were nearly 17,000 people in attendance.

Sunland Park Purse increase

The final month of the meet [horse racing in New Mexico] also saw a 25 percent purse increase and the amount of races per race day, which were Tuesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, increased from 9 to 10, 11 and eventually 12 races per day.

“We were happy with the meet,” said Dustin Dix, who is the Director of Racing at Sunland Park Racetrack & Casino. “We had quality racing in terms of both thoroughbreds and quarter horses. Having the return of the Sunland Derby was big for us, it is certainly a highlight of the meet.”

The latest on the Kentucky Derby Preps from Agameofskill.com – Florida Derby and Blue Grass Stakes.

Is the Future Bright with Horse Racing in Virginia?

Churchill winner's circleContrary to popular opinion, Churchill Downs has a plan that includes a bright future for Colonial Downs, their new racetrack purchase in the state of Virginia.

“As Colonial Downs prepares to change ownership, the new company has a message for Virginians: “We’re bringing our checkbook.”

That’s what Churchill Downs CEO Bill Carstanjen said during a recent visit to Richmond, as his group prepares to take over Virginia’s only Thoroughbred racing venue, as well as the six Rosie’s locations around the state.

Churchill Downs is the most famous venue in horse racing, hosting the annual Kentucky Derby, and once the deal to secure Colonial Downs’ parent company for $2.4 billion is in place, Carstanjen said his group intends to invest to build up its presence in Virginia.

“We really loved what we saw in Virginia, which is the rebirth of the equine business here,” he said. “It was historically an important part of the U.S. scene, but in the last number of decades it hasn’t been.”

More on the future of horse racing in Virginia

Is Horse Racing Dead? Not Down Under in Australia

Arrowfield Group’s John Messara says engagement with Australian horse racing has “grown” during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I think the fact that we’ve been able to get through COVID and survive during that COVID period,” Mr Messara said.

“The engagement has, I suppose, grown as people have been stuck at home and not able to do other things.

“Racing has continued, and people have been drawn to it … And the pie is growing.”

Check out the 6-minute video interview with Messara and learn about the strength of the Australian sales market where 94% of the horses entered sold.

Is Horse Racing Dead? Not in New York

The recently concluded 15-day fall meet at Aqueduct Racetrack generated $10,295,293 in average daily handle from all sources, the New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA) announced today. With this year’s 11.2 percent increase over 2020, average daily handle at the Aqueduct fall meet has risen 25.4 percent since 2019.

The continued growth in average daily handle aligns with the broader trend at NYRA, as reflected in sustained increases in that metric at Belmont Park and Saratoga Race Course. Average daily handle at the Belmont fall meet has grown 39 percent since 2019 with the 2021 summer meet at Saratoga eclipsing $20 million in average daily handle for the first time in history. 

Red Flags on Rag Tag – get the latest handicapping tip

Despite hosting three fewer race days than 2020, all sources handle for the Aqueduct fall meet totaled $154,429,388 compared with $166,702,976 in 2020. The 2019 fall meet, which was contested over 25 days, generated all sources handle of $205,249,710.

The opening of the fall meet marked the return of in-person attendance for the first time since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020. As a result, on-track handle was $15,268,541, a 35.1 percent increase over 2020 when only a limited number of owners were permitted to attend live racing. The 2019 fall meet, which was contested over 25 days, generated on-track handle of $20,712,645.

With the benefit of two turf courses available at Aqueduct, 74 races were run over the grass with just six races forced off the turf due to weather during the fall meet. In 2020, 68 races were run over the grass with 11 races forced off the turf due to weather. 

Average field size for the 145 total races run during the fall meet was 8.90, a 2.6 percent increase over 2020 and 5.9 percent higher than 2019. 

The 2021-22 Aqueduct winter meet, which began Dec. 9, continues through Sunday, March 27.

The End of Arlington Park Racecourse…For Now

RLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. (WLS) — As thousands of horse racing fans head home from Arlington Park Saturday night, some might have a touch more cash in their pockets, while others might not be so lucky.

Regardless, everyone at the track on the picturesque fall day does share something in common. They were there when the sun set on Arlington Park.

Arlington Park racetrack“It’s a sad thing for Arlington Heights, for sure,” said longtime fan Diane Scrowka.

For nearly a century — since 1927 — people have flocked to the suburban race track, creating years of memories.

“I saw Secretariat race here years and years ago,” said Susan Rusco. “Lots of good times, a lots of family times.”

It’s a place that may take you back in time.

“It’s kind of a pillar of the past. You can dress up and live like you’re in another time,” said Lauren Dietzel.

However, people come to the races for that and more.

Arlington’s owners said that the gambling market has shrunk over time as casinos landed in the Chicago area.

“When horse racing was the only game in town, everybody betted on horse racing,” said Tony Petrillo, president of Arlington International Racecourse…  More on Arlington Park

Turns Out, Horse Racing isn’t quite dead yet

Belmont Park crowd

copyright Agameofskill.com. 

Horse racing is dead, right?

That’s all we’ve heard for the last decade or two, much less years. All those horrible equine fatalities at Santa Anita a couple of years back. All those Bob Baffert drug positives in all those high-profile races. All those PETA protests against a sport thought to be well past its prime, one on a slow, agonizing path to extinction.

Don’t tell that to the bettors.

Don’t tell that to the 15,874 who turned out for opening day at Del Mar last week, leading to a record handle of $21,339,643. The California seaside track’s weekend handle: A cool $80.5 million, a 17 percent increase over 2019, the last time fans were allowed to visit the beautiful venue.

Don’t tell that to the 27,760 who turned out for opening day at Saratoga, generating a record $21,935,534 handle. That set the stage for a four-day all-sources handle of $90.1 million. Last Saturday’s handle was $32,117,869 for the 11 races. And the Travers, Saratoga’s signature stakes race, isn’t until Aug. 28.

Don’t tell that to the 20,983 who showed up at Monmouth Park for last Saturday’s Haskell Invitational, which helped produce a $16.4 million handle. And that was without a Kentucky Derby winner in the field because, well, at this point, we don’t really have an official Kentucky Derby winner.

By now we’ve heard the horse-racing-is-dead narrative so long it has almost been taken for granted. The popular storyline persists that there just isn’t much interest in Thoroughbred racing beyond the passionate subset that clings to the sport…

Hong Kong sees all-time record turnover for horse racing betting

The [Hong Kong] government-granted monopoly club, which provides pari-mutuel betting on horse racing in the region, saw a record 835 races and 88 meetings that resulted in a 12.1% increase in turnover.

After a period of social unrest in 2019, the Hong Kong Jockey Club returned to its traditional 88-meeting season and figures escalated in contrast with the previous years: hosted local races went from 828 to 835 (which represents an increase by 11%), had 26 more simulcast days (accounting HK$7bn) and 206 more races than ever before.

Of the total revenue numbers, HK$13.7 billion went to the Hong Kong government, 13.6% more than after the last campaign.

“We are delighted to have been able to again complete a full season with a clear focus of ensuring racing to continue while upholding the principle of protecting the public health and safety of our employees, stakeholders and the public”, Winfried Engelbretch-Bresges, HKJC’s chief executive said…

PA Gov. Wolf is at it Again. Seeks to move money from Penn horse racing to college scholarships

Horse racing in Pennsylvania supports 20,000 jobs, according to the industry, which is supported by hundreds of millions of dollars from slot machines. There is now a push to take some of that money and give it to college students.

Insiders say hold your horses.

Governor Ed Rendell signing Act 71 in 2004. It was called the Race Horse Development and Gaming act.

“Watch the jobs in the horse racing industry double,” Rendell said.

The law legalized casino gambling and steered a cut of slots revenue to the horse racing industry. It’s about $250 million a year — but too much, critics say.

“After 15 years and $3 billion, the horse racing industry is fat and happy but it can’t stand on its own four hooves?” asked Sharon Ward, of Education Voters of Pa.

Ward is with Education Voters of Pa., a group that supports Governor Wolf’s plan to siphon $199 million from horses and bet on college scholarships.

“Imagine if we spent that money on college students who would then be productive and taxpayers in Pennsylvania,” Ward said.

Russell Williams, owner of Hanover Shoe Farms, disagrees…