2013clnstatsHorseracing, like baseball, is driven by numbers.  While most folks walking around will claim no efficiency in the fine art of math, almost everyone involved in horseracing follows the numbers from bettors to breeders.

So when the numbers come in from the just completed meet at Colonial Downs the tendency is to try and figure out what they mean.

We received two sets of numbers recently for the just completed meet from Dave Lermond of the Virginia Racing Commission and Frank Petramalo of the Virginia H.B.P.A.  Not surprisingly they were very similar and showed the same disturbing trends.

Like the numbers revealed in a recent article by the Virginian Pilot published on Virginia Derby Day, the most important numbers continue to trend downward.  The moral of the story is simply that the staus quo is moving us all in the wrong direction.

While the number of racing days and races were down -22.5% and -29.5%, those numbers aren’t critically important and down by simple fact that the meet was shortened from 31 to 24 days.  Fewer race days mean fewer races, no mystery there.

The disturbing numbers are those that depict “daily averages” as they give a fairly close comparison of what happened throughout the meet on a daily basis compared to the same statistical set in 2012.

The good news is the number of horses per raced increased from 8.4 to 8.8.  This seems to defuse the concern that the shorter meet would cause various horsemen who shipped in to abandon the meet causing a negative impact.  This scenario proved to be accurate when Florida horsemen stayed home buoyed by competing meets at Calder and Gulfstream, but others showed up to fill the starting gate.

The Virginia HBPA and Colonial Downs took steps to mitigate this impact by re-instituting the free shuttle.  As a result, the shuttle averaged 7.2 horses per day which is just one horse shy of the average field.

The other average daily numbers of import did not fare as well.  Average daily attendance dropped ever so slightly from 2,008 per day to 1,942.  This tells us the model is at least consistent.  Competition, weather and traffic were no better or worse than last year and the attendance pattern looks to be fairly stable.

That said, according to Petramalo’s figures, attendance was down on both the Virginia Derby Day and Colonial Turf Cup Day and up on the Fourth of July and Father’s Day

when special events looked to have drawn a bigger crowd.  The Commonwealth Turf Festival posted bigger attendance number when moved from Friday night in 2012 to Saturday in 2013.  However, somewhat consistent with the date change, total handle dropped from over $744,000 in 2012 to over $472,000 in 2013.


Virginia Derby day attendance fell from 6,703 last year to 6,040 (-9.8%) and Turf Cup day dropped from 3,655 to 2,777, a 24% decline.  No doubt weather and traffic were factors, but the trends continue in the wrong direction for attendance for the track’s two biggest races.

One might assume from the Fourth of July and Father’s Day crowds which both showed significant crowd increases that fireworks are more important than graded stakes and good horses.  Disappointing, to say the least.

Average daily handle increased from $116,582 in 2012 to $118,086 this year, but of great concern to all involved is that the daily average for simulcast signal sales continues to trend downward – $493,655 in 2012 and $488,384 in 2013.  That’s only a decrease of 1.07% which is a statistical blip in the grand scheme of things, but in seems to be running contrary to general economic conditions.  With a shorter meet with higher overnight purses ($151,434 this year as compared to $131,490 last year) and a similar schedule, one would look for numbers to creep up, not down.

Virginia-breds remained consistent posting 16% of the total starts – some 394 last year and 297 this year.  More Virginia-breds, in terms of the total percentage, were winners as 35 (17%) scored this year as opposed to 46 (15%) last year.

We will post more on this later when other stakeholders weigh in on these figures.

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