Racing in Maryland Including Fall Festival at Laurel Park Shows Sharp Handle Increase
Saturday’s Fall Festival of Racing at Laurel Park showed a 19.6% increase in handle over last year’s big racing weekend. The 11-race program generated a total handle of $4.513 million compared to $3.775 million in 2015. The in-state handle was up 16.4% with more off-track betting facilities adding to the growth.
“We were pleased with Saturday’s handle as well as the crowd that came out to watch a great race card,” said Sal Sinatra, President and General Manager of the Maryland Jockey Club. “We want to thank everyone who came out and enjoyed our renovated facility, those who bet the program on-line or at simulcast facilities, and those who came out for the Brew & Bourbon Festival. We also want to thank horsemen locally and nationally who continue to support our program.
The increases on Fall Festival continued a growing trend in the Maryland Thoroughbred industry. On Oct. 22, total handle on Jim McKay Maryland Million Day was up 18.5 percent over the previous year and a super surge of 59.8% over 2014.
“We want to continue to offer fans and horsemen these spectacular programs and events. Fans like the renovations we’ve made and horsemen love the new barns and improvements to the backside. Our Sunday program continues to build as well with dining options and Fantasy Football. We’re going to continue to work hard because we believe there’s tremendous potential in Maryland.”
Earlier this year, the 141st Preakness Stakes (G1), the Middle Jewel of racing’s Triple Crown, set all-time records in total handle ($94.127 million) and attendance (135,256). Black-Eyed Susan Day also had increases over the previous year with total handle of $18.661 million compared to $17.815 in 2015.
The rise and interest in Maryland racing is evident, and earlier this month the Maryland Jockey Club announced an increase in the number of race dates it holds at Pimlico and Laurel Park in 2017. The racing commission has unanimously approved a 162 race schedule in 2017, up from 154 days last year.
“There’s been a lot of buzz about the increased days for a third straight year,” said Tim Ritvo, chief operating officer for the MJC’s parent company, The Stronach Group. He added that the Maryland Jockey Club expects to take in $425 million in total handle this year, an increase from $355 million in 2015 and $296 million in 2014.