Wednesday, December 07, 2011

2011 Woodbine Thoroughbred meet shows strong rise in handle

TORONTO, December 7 - Woodbine Entertainment Group (WEG) today announced its 2011 live Thoroughbred racing season saw a significant increase in handle over the previous year.

The 165-day meet, which concluded December 4, saw an "all-sources" total of $423,210,680 wagered, a 7.5 per cent overall rise from the $393,506,550 figure recorded from the 167 dates offered last year.

It is the third straight year of notable handle growth on the Thoroughbred season, after a 7 percent rise in 2009 and an 8.9 percent increase in 2010.

"We have been specifically focused on growing our live racing pools and we are pleased to report significant increases again this year," said Sean Pinsonneault, WEG's Chief Operating Officer. "In 2008, the live Thoroughbred season showed a handle of $337 million. To now announce a $423 million handle figure in 2011 is a testament to the increasing appeal of our product."

The nearly $30 million increase in betting came from U.S. sources. Wagering on the Woodbine live Thoroughbred meet from U.S. remotes was up 15.6 percent over last year. This wagering represents a much lower margin than what is earned in WEG's home market area where there was a 3.2 percent decline in betting for the season. The number of races offered this year was down 2.2 percent from last year's meet.

"We continue to see strong betting growth on our product in the U.S. market," Pinsonneault said. "We also saw record-setting handles on three of our highest-profile days."

The Queen's Plate, Woodbine's signature race, produced a record handle of $8,768,145 for its 152nd edition in 2011. The Ricoh Woodbine Mile ($6,064,189) and Pattison Canadian International ($6,400,112) cards also established handle marks.

Average field size on the season was 8.5 horses per race, down slightly from the 8.7 figure recorded in 2010.

Overnight and stakes purses, including supplements and nominations fees, paid out in 2011 totaled $82.35 million, an excellent $499,139 per card.

"Woodbine racing is attractive to our customers both north and south of border," Pinsonneault said. "With the influx of many U.S. owners, trainers and jockeys, the competition on the track is strong and the fans recognize that."

The 2012 Woodbine Thoroughbred season is scheduled for 167 dates, beginning Good Friday, April 6.

Standardbred racing continues at Woodbine through the winter, including a special Boxing Day card that features a 1:20 p.m. post-time.

On track this year, Mark Casse set records in both major training categories. It was a fifth straight training title and sixth overall for Casse, who won 119 races, shattering the mark established by the late Frank Passero in 1995 (89 wins). Casse also won more purses in one Woodbine meet than any horseman ever, collecting $6,670,906 eclipsing his own 2007 mark.

Reade Baker was second on the trainers' chart with 61 wins, with Robert Tiller and Steve Asmussen third, each notching 45 victories.

Luis Contreras collected his first Woodbine jockey title, recording 212 wins on the meet, falling just short of Mickey Walls' classic 1991 record of 221 wins in a single meet. Contreras did write himself into the record books by earning more purses at Woodbine in one season than any other rider, collecting $11,563,915, edging Todd Kabel's 2003 mark of $11,284,853.

Patrick Husbands was a clear second in the standings with 192 wins, while Emma-Jayne Wilson was third (135 wins).

Melnyk Racing Stables, Inc. led all owners at Woodbine with $1,622,395 in purse earnings. Bear Stables Ltd. was second with $1,581,254 and had the most wins with 33. Donver Stable was third with $1,520,979.

Fillies had a fabulous year as the top three money earners at Woodbine meet were all distaffers. Inglorious, who won both the Queen's Plate ($11) and Woodbine Oaks, presented by Budweiser ($5.20), led all horses with $1,053,000 in earnings. Sarah Lynx, who beat 15 colts in the Grade 1, $1.5 million Pattison Canadian International ($46.90) was second with $900,000, with E.P. Taylor Stakes Miss Keller rounding out the top three with $624,000.

Hank's Hill had seven wins to lead all runners at the 165-day season (two cancelled dates).

In the other major stakes events, Turallure ($14.90) won the Ricoh Woodbine Mile, and Pender Harbour ($6.20) won the Breeders' Stakes, giving him two-thirds of Canadian Triple Crown Series (he also won the Prince of Wales Stakes at Fort Erie).

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