Churchill Downs had record spring handle of $614 million, a 20% increase from 2021, a track executive told the Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund Advisory Committee Aug. 2. The meet concluded in early July.
Austin Schmitt, vice president of finance for Churchill Downs, told the committee that Kentucky Derby Week handle contributed heavily to the meet totals. Over the final three weeks of the meet, Churchill Downs suspended grass racing over its problematic, immature turf course, racing exclusively on dirt.
The Louisville, Ky., track intends to resume turf racing Aug. 13 for a single day of racing this month when it hosts the Arlington Million Stakes (G1T) and other stakes that were previously run outside Chicago at Arlington International Racecourse, which Churchill Downs Inc. closed this year.
Field size grew 10% during the 42-day spring meet to average 7.9 starters per race, Schmitt said. He added the track paid out a record $47.6 million in purses, averaging more than $1 million a day, and attendance rose 61% from the 2021 spring meet, which had some COVID-19 capacity restrictions. Purses in Kentucky are buoyed by historical horse racing gaming revenue.
The spring-meet increases came despite two days of racing canceled due to heat.
During Tuesday’s meeting, the committee also approved the transfer of $1 million in KDTF Funds from Kentucky Downs to Keeneland, and Kentucky Downs’ request to add KTDF funds to designated stakes if a grade 1 winner competes.