Gulfstream Park, the Lion of Winter Simulcasting Overcomes a Poor Start to win Handily
By Kent H. Stirling, FHBPA Executive Director
May 27, 2010
Yes, it’s that time of year again when I analyze the top five winter track’s out-of-state simulcasting numbers. These numbers are harder to get every year as more and more tracks follow the CDI (Churchill Downs) policy of let’s not print handle numbers unless they are really sensational, i.e. The Derby, Oaks and night racing. All my numbers are straight from the DRF Simulcast Weekly except for Gulfstream Park’s which I got from CHRIMS (California Horse Racing Information Management System). Gulfstream stopped publishing their handle numbers in the DRF last year (2009) which makes absolutely zero sense, or does the bankruptcy fit into this somehow?
For the 11th year in a row I again followed the simple rules outlined by the “Czar of Winter Simulcasting”. In a nutshell these rules are that the simulcast numbers are all taken beginning Jan. 3rd, Gulfstream Park’s opening day, and ending on the weekend when the last of the three-year-old Derbies is run. That means The Wood, the Arkansas, Florida, Santa Anita and Tampa Bay Derbies are included which means our study concluded on April 11th, the day after the Arkansas Derby in which Line of David held off Super Saver by a neck before Super Saver became a winner of a more prestigious Derby a few weeks later. Another rule was that at least 3 of the 5 tracks studied had to race on the same day for their simulcast numbers to be used. Also the simulcasting numbers are represented only by average wagers per race. Oh, and for those of you who remember Latin American Racing (LARC) at the end of the Gulfstream card those handle numbers were removed from the numbers used.
By dragging this study out 3 weeks past the Florida Derby to allow The Wood along with the Arkansas and Santa Anita Derbies to be run, the “Czar”, who does not play favorites or cater to the home team, thereby allowed Santa Anita and Aqueduct to both have Saturdays when their simulcast numbers actually surpassed those of Gulfstream. Oaklawn also topped Gulfstream in gross simulcast handle but fell short when that number was divided by the number of races run.
If you weren’t aware, when the 800 pound gorilla, Keeneland, opens it’s doors the snowbirds, or in this case “snow horses”, all flock (or run) to Lexington so the quality of the Gulfstream signal declines somewhat. This gives the other winter tracks a chance to eat into Gulfstream Park’s huge simulcasting per race advantage for three weeks, and to some degree they all do.
I mentioned Gulfstream had a poor simulcasting start earlier, and that referred to the Mid-Atlantic Consortium which buys all signals for Delaware, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia. This is a powerful buying group that makes up about 13 or 14 percent of the winter simulcast market. The only major tracks that the Mid-Atlantic was wagering on on January 3rd were Aqueduct and Tampa Bay Downs which gained a significant advantage by the standoff with TrackNet Media which wasn’t settled until January 22nd.
If you look at the final numbers for this study, Gulfstream had the highest average per race simulcasting handle on every day of the week on every race day, Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Shortly, we will examine these numbers a little closer and you can also find them in the accompanying chart. One interesting fact to note is that it is becoming more and more obvious that Sunday is now, in most cases, the third best simulcasting day of the week having been surpassed by Friday behind the clear winner, Saturday.
Gulfstream, Oaklawn and Santa Anita all did better on Friday simulcasting per race than they did on Sunday. Aqueduct and Tampa Bay did better on Sunday than Friday, but barely.
Mondays, which were both holidays in this study, had Gulfstream edging out it’s nearest competitor and sister track, Santa Anita, on average simulcast wagers per race by 21%, the lowest margin of any race day. On Wednesday Gulfstream outdid 2nd place Aqueduct by over $113,000 per race or by 29%. Thursday, Friday and Sunday found Santa Anita 2nd to Gulfstream on each day by 49%, 32% and 24% respectively. On Saturday, as it has been for the last 11 years, the last Gulfstream crushed it’s nearest competitor which happened to be Aqueduct by over $300,000 per race or over 47% by producing average simulcasting per race of $937,619.
For all days studied, Gulfstream finished at $657,740 per race followed by Santa Anita at $479,219, Aqueduct at $457,593, Tampa Bay Downs at $340,805 and Oaklawn at $237,146 average simulcasting handle per race, or Gulfstream Park numbers were over 37% higher overall than second place Santa Anita.
<p.In 2008, the same study period showed Gulfstream Park, which was then running 3 months of 6 day race weeks, with average starters per race of 8.68. Last year Gulfstream went to a 5-day race week during the study period and starters per race jumped to 9.29. This year Gulfstream ran two 6-day race weeks, with both of those Monday holidays, and the remainder 5-day race weeks ending up the period with average starters per race of 9.44. This figure easily topped the starters per race of even Tampa Bay Downs, known for it’s full fields.
The following are other numbers at Gulfstream that may be of interest. Even against an industry negative trend of close to 10% for live on-track handle, Gulfstream was actually close to dead even compared to last year when their live wagering was up 7% against a similarly equal negative industry trend in 2009. Live handle in state was close to the same as last year which was down from previous years. This year’s interstate wagering (ISW) numbers were up 4.5 % on the Gulfstream Park product when compared to last year when that number was up 2.25% from the prior year (2008). Turf races were almost a dead heat at 271 in 2010, ending up one shy of last year. Race day’s carded as sloppy or muddy numbered 8 this year vs but 3 in 2009. Average overnights paid were $220,688 vs $212,976 last year.