Thursday, October 31, 2013
The Downs at Albuquerque ended its 56-day season on Wednesday, with the track recording substantial increases in attendance and handle.
Racing from August 2-October 30, The Downs at Albuquerque drew a total of 82,086 fans, compared to 64,523 during its 54-day meet in 2012. Total attendance was up 27 percent over last year, while the average daily attendance of 1,466 marked a 23-percent increase over the 2012 average of 1,195.
Money wagered on and off track on The Downs’ live races reached $7,420,076, an 11-percent increase over the $6,689,178 handle recorded in 2012. The track’s average daily handle, $132,501, was 7 percent better than last year’s average of $123,874.
And, proving how popular The Downs at Albuquerque’s product was to simulcast players outside New Mexico, the track’s interstate off-track handle of $4,407,644 was 19 percent better than last year’s $3,714,546. The only handle decrease the track recorded was in its intrastate off-track handle -- that is, money wagered on The Downs’ live racing at New Mexico tracks -- which reached $393,133, down 23 percent from the 2012 intrastate handle of $513,410.
Downs’ director of racing operations Don Cook attributed the increase in attendance to the track’s new 65,000-square foot casino, which opened in July.
“The new casino brought more people to our facility, and even though the casino is in a separate building than the racing grandstand, I think a lot of people -- many of whom had maybe never seen a live horserace -- said, ‘Hey, there’s something going on over at the grandstand . Let’s go check it out,’” Cook said. “We spent a lot of money building the new casino, and when you do that you need a good marketing plan. Our marketing team did an excellent job of getting the word out.
“But our large increase in off-track handle was also encouraging, because the people who played our races away from the track had no idea we had a new casino,” he added. “They weren’t attracted by the casino. They were attracted by the quality of our racing.”
The Downs paid horsemen a total of $4,773,338 in purse money, up 2 percent over last year’s $4,680,500. Average daily purses reached $85,238, down 2 percent from the 2012 average of $86,676.
Cook said he expects The Downs’ new casino to generate enough revenue between now and next August that purses will double to approximately $160,000 per day in 2014. Also, the track is planning to install lights so that night racing can take place.
“I think racing at night will enable us to increase our off-track handle even more, because we’ll be able to race at a time when not a lot of other tracks are running,” Cook said. “My biggest concern about racing at night is making sure we have reliable backup systems. The last time we had night racing in New Mexico was at Sunland Park, and that came to an end when the lights inadvertently went out in the middle of a race.
“We’re looking seriously at the safety issue and making sure everything is done correctly,” he added. “It’s going to take time to make sure we double and triple check everything. Running at night is a nice idea, but we positively don’t want any issues. We want reliable backup systems if we have any problems.”
The Downs’ richest Quarter Horse race, the 400-yard, $76,452 New Mexico State Fair Senor Futurity (RG3) for state-bred 2-year-old colts and geldings on September 21, was won by Downwiththequickness, a homebred gelding by Be Real Quick owned and trained by Terry G. Smith. Diana Bringhurst’s Poblano, a gelded son of Minister Eric, won the meet’s richest Thoroughbred race, the 6-furlong, $53,753 George Maloof Futurity (R) for New Mexico-bred colts and geldings on September 22.
“Our increases this year were encouraging, especially considering that most racetracks in the country are down,” Cook said. “Our average field size during the month of October was nine per race, and the credit for that goes to our racing secretary, Jim Collins, and our race office.”
The Downs at Albuquerque’s 2014 meet will run 54 days, from August 2-October 26.