On Monday, we reviewed the stats available from the just completed Colonial Downs live meet noting that some important statistics seem to be trending downward.  Colonial Downs’ president Ian Stewart conducted his owns analysis and his thoughts are below.  While we are confident that Stewart’s numbers are correct and we acknowledge that weather and other variables make “apples to apples” comparisons difficult, we aren’t yet sure that average wagering “per race” trumps the overall wagering that occurred at any live race meet.  After all, the former is a critical component of the latter.

When all is said done, the end goal is generate more revenue for the purse account, the Breeders Fund and the racetrack and that revenue is ultimately a function of gross handle.  While other trends that are moving up are indeed steps in the right direction, increases in the key revenue streams represent “meaningful growth.”  We appreciate Stewart’s time and attention to this issue and his willingness to share his thoughts.  – GP

Glenn: I read with interest your recent article on the 2013 thoroughbred meet at Colonial Downs and would like to offer the following thoughts.  A close review of the numbers reveal that on an “apples to apples” comparison, the 2013 meet exceeded the 2012 meet in many important categories.  Moreover, the trends on this basis exceeded similar metrics at other tracks. 

StewartStat3Attached are some more comprehensive 2013 thoroughbred meet statistics.  I have divided them into four categories to simplify organization; attendance, handle, purses and racing.  From an attendance standpoint, our average declined from 2,008 per day to 1,942.  However, 2012 opening day attendance numbers were bolstered by opening with the Strawberry Hill races.  If you use the attendance from our opening Saturday in 2013 instead of the Strawberry Hill attendance, the 2012 adjusted average is 1,908 which results in a slight increase for the 2013 meet.  The point is, it can be difficult to compare attendance year to year.  This year attendance was especially affected by the weather.  As anyone who lives in this area can attest, June and July had either rain or the significant threat of rain virtually every day.  The weather certainly held down attendance for the Virginia Derby.  Father’s Day continued to grow nicely and overall, we had a slight growth in our four major days which is our main attendance strategy. 

StewartStat2From a wagering standpoint, year to year comparisons using a per day metric are, frankly, misleading.  The critical metric is the amount wagered on a race.  In 2013, we averaged 8.7 races per day.  In 2012, we averaged 9.6 races per day.  Comparing day-to-day results therefore distorts the comparison for wagering.  Since wagering is on a race and not a day, by comparing wagering per day we are comparing wagering on 8.7 races vs. wagering on 9.6 races which is clearly not the same thing.  There is also the problem of how to treat partial days such as on June 26, where we cancelled after 3 races, June 27, where we cancelled after 7 races and July 10 where we cancelled after 5 races.  Given these issues, I believe that a per race metric is a much more accurate reflection of wagering activity.  On a per race basis, handle at the track on live Colonial Downs races increased from an average of $9,523 per race in 2012 to $10,594 per race in 2013, an increase of 11%.  Overall, per capita wagering at the track increased for the first time in at least 10 years.  While wagering on our simulcast signal remains disappointing, on a per race basis it increased from $51,405 per race in 2012 to $56,802 per race in 2013 or 9%. 

StewartStat1From the standpoint of purses and racing, I think the meet was very successful.  In 2013, we increased average daily purses from $200,795 per day in 2012 to $218,767 in 2013 or 9%.  The average overnight purse increased from $12,645 to $16,479 or 30%.  This proved attractive to horsemen as field sizes increased from 8.4 horses to 8.8 horses per race.  Turf racing predominated and the difference would have been even more pronounced if we had not had to move races to the dirt on the two days prior to the Virginia Derby to preserve the grass after all of the rain that fell that week.  Our major stakes races had strong fields and were very competitive.

On a per race basis, live handle increased 11%; simulcast handle increased 9%; per capita wagering at the track increased for the first time in a decade; overnight purses were up 30%; and field sizes increased.  In my opinion, the 2013 thoroughbred meet represents a successful step in the right direction. – Ian Stewart, Colonial Downs.

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  1. Purse reductions in all Stakes races and raise of all admission revenue has some twister minds happy but fans in general tired of Colonial`s spin


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