|Modest On-Track Gains Despite Record
Rainfall at Lone Star Park
Despite enduring its wettest spring/summer
in track history, Lone Star Park at Grand Prairie concluded the 2007 Spring
Thoroughbred Season on Sunday, July 29 with modest increases in both total
and average daily attendance and on-track total handle. Wagering on the
live product, however, declined both on and off-track.
Total attendance during the 2007 Spring Thoroughbred Season, which was
conducted over 67 dates between April 12 and July 29, increased 4.0% to
475,000, compared to 457,000 during the 66-date 2006 season. Average daily
attendance grew 2.5% to 7,100 versus 6,900 a year ago.
Total on-track wagering, which includes betting by on-track customers
on Lone Star Park's live races and simulcast races imported by the track,
was $73.2 million, a jump of 5.1% from the $69.6 million in 2006. The
daily total on-track wagering average increased 3.6% to $1.09 million,
compared to $1.05 million one year ago.
"The North Texas climate is often unpredictable, but this year's
record deluge certainly impacted attendance, handle, field sizes and the
training of horses," said Lone Star Park President and General Manager
Drew Shubeck. "To show growth in on-track attendance and total on-track
handle in a year that featured such obstacles is a testament to the hard
work and dedication of our entire team and partners. Our dedicated fans
and horsemen were resilient and we thank each of them for their growing
support during our 10th anniversary year."
According to the National Weather Service, 27.68 inches of rain fell
in the Grand Prairie, Texas area between April and July - up 15 inches
from the previous 10-year average and 21 inches more than 2006. May and
June, victimized by more than 19 inches alone, combined to be the wettest
two months in Dallas-Fort Worth history.
In spite of the inclement weather, total on-track wagers on live racing
only declined 3.0% from $29.2 million in 2006 to $28.4 million this season.
Off-track export business, however, significantly dipped 14.9% to total
$83.4 million versus $97.9 million a year ago. As a result, wagering on
Lone Star's live races by on and off-track customers totaled $111.7 million
compared to $127.2 million in 2006, a 12.1% decline.
"The decrease in off-track wagering is attributed to several factors,"
Shubeck said. "Obviously, the weather greatly impacted our product
offering and made it less attractive to bettors. That led to soft business
in several key markets. California is a prime example, which imported
36-percent less races this year than 2006."
Favorites won a record 39.3% of the time and the average field size dipped
to an all-time low of 8.49 horses per race, largely due to a record 527
late scratches (up 42.4% from the 370 in 2006). There was an average of
7.8 late scratches per day, including 10 or more on 18 occasions - all
on days that featured "off" tracks and cancelled turf racing.
All told, 60 races originally scheduled for the turf were transferred
to main track due to rainfall over 21 different racing dates, including
closing day. Lone Star Park also had to cancel its final six races on
Sunday, July 1 due to a severe downpour that washed out the main track.
"Notwithstanding the record rainfall and scratches, we'll be exploring
ways to make our live product more competitive and appealing to bettors
nationwide for 2008," Shubeck said.
Three-time national training champ and area resident Steve Asmussen,
who earlier this year won the Preakness Stakes with Curlin, outlasted
Grand Prairie native Bret Calhoun, 73 wins to 67, to earn his ninth Lone
Star training title in the last 10 years. Asmussen trailed Calhoun by
as many as 14 victories on June 9, but won with 49 of his next 142 starters
(a 34.5% win clip over the last 31 race dates) to snare another crown.
Calhoun, who won his 1,000th career race July 12, has finished second
to Asmussen three years in a row. Danny Pish finished third with 47 wins,
followed by Cody Autrey's 42. Together, they won 35.3% of Lone Star's
The local riding title went to a new face at Lone Star: Ramsey Zimmerman.
The 25-year-old, who moved his tack to the region last November, defeated
two-time defending champ Cliff Berry and Luis Quinonez, 82-72. Both Zimmerman
and Berry reached career milestones at Lone Star this season. On May 6,
Zimmerman won his 1,000th career race. That same day, Berry surpassed
Corey Lanerie as Lone Star Park's all-time leading rider (he now has 530
career local wins) and later rode his 3,000th career Thoroughbred winner
Sandy and Jerry Heflin of Rockwall and Ywachetta and James Driver of
Irving merged into a partnership earlier this year with hope of becoming
Lone Star's leading owners. Not only did they achieve their goal, they
won a single season record 30 races, which eclipsed Kagele Brothers Inc.'s
2004 mark of 27. They finished 12 wins clear of Bill and Corrine Heiligbrodt's
18 victories. Last year, the Heflins led the Lone Star owner's standings
themselves with 17 wins.
Gold Coyote, with 82-year-old owner/breeder Clarence Scharbauer Jr. on
hand, won Sunday's $70,000 Middleground Breeders' Cup Stakes by 5 ¾
lengths over South Branch Storm for his second straight stakes win. On
July 7, the Bret Calhoun-trainee also took the $125,000 Texas Stallion
Stakes by 10 lengths and was awarded a Beyer Speed Figure of 100 - the
highest for a 2-year-old in Lone Star's Spring Thoroughbred Season history.
His effort Sunday was deemed a 97.
As a result, Gold Coyote snatched Horse of the Meet honors from Bob and
John, the Champion Older Male who earned $295,000 at the meet while running
second in the Grade III, $300,000 Texas Mile and beating Sweetnorthernsaint
in a memorable renewal of the Grade III, $400,000 Lone Star Park Handicap.
The Lone Star Park Handicap was the centerpiece of Lone Star Park's ninth
annual Lone Star Million on Memorial Day, which lured a crowd of 16,196
and $1.9 million in on-track total wagers, increases of 29.5% and 21.3%,
respectively, from 2006.
Lone Star Million, which features six stakes events, helped comprise
14 major racing and/or promotion-driven events during the season. After
severe thunderstorms and bitter cold helped cripple opening weekend business
(attendance was off 18.2%, on-track wagering fell 11.6% and a post-race
concert by Foreigner was cancelled), Lone Star rallied to show healthy
gains of 9.9% for attendance (166,055 versus 151,133 on comparable dates
in 2006) and 1.8% for on-track total handle ($22.1 million compared to
$21.7 million a year ago) for its remaining big event days.
"To commemorate our 10th anniversary year, we directed additional
marketing dollars toward specific events and racing days, and the results
were very positive despite rainfall on several of those dates," Shubeck
Season highlights included crowds of 25,040 and 16,047 for racing and
holiday fireworks on July 3-4 - typically the two most attended days of
the meet. A simulcast of the Triple Crown series again proved popular
with 38,047 customers (up 0.8% from 2006) who wagered in excess of $8.1
million on-track (up 8.5%) for the three-race series. Stars of Texas,
a day completely devoted to Texas-breds, also showed significant gains
in attendance and handle. The July 7 attendance of 8,110 jumped 31.9%
while on-track total handle was $1.4 million, a 13.8% increase.
Live racing at Lone Star Park will resume Friday, Oct. 5 for a 32-date
Fall Meeting of Champions through Saturday, Dec. 1. The nine-week meeting
for American Quarter Horses will run Wednesday through Saturday nights
at 6:35 p.m. CT with a special 5 p.m. first race on Saturday, Oct. 27
to complement a simulcast of the Breeders' Cup World Championships from
Until then, simulcast wagering in Lone Star's Post Time Pavilion continues
seven days a week, topped by popular summer signals such as upstate New
York's Saratoga and Southern California's Del Mar. The smoke-free second
floor of Lone Star's grandstand will be open Saturdays and Sundays through
Labor Day for simulcast wagering, as well.
"Onsite simulcast wagering has been extremely positive, especially
over the last 13 weeks," Shubeck said. "Currently, we're ahead
of last year's pace ($98.0 million since the first of the year compared
to $97.2 million in 2006) and we've increased simulcast wagering by $4.1
million, or 9.8-percent, since the first of May. We'll work very hard
this off-season to continue the positive trend, which is important to
our bottom line and the horsemen's purse account for 2008."
Lone Star Park expects to have a similar race schedule for the 2008 Spring
"Unlike years past, we dropped five Wednesday programs this year
in exchange for an additional week of racing," Shubeck said. "A
four-day racing week was the prudent move for our current horse population
and business model. If it weren't for the constant severe weather, we
truly believe there would have been growth in starters per race because
entries were on par with last year. Unfortunately, we had an unprecedented
number of late scratches and the training of numerous horses were compromised.
Therefore, we are pursuing a similar race schedule for 2008 at this time
with hope for more favorable and typical weather patterns."