I won't rehash the bad press of late regarding Churchill Downs Inc - I only have a short time to post this and it would take too long anyway - but for the business of racing, we now see a trend.
Earlier this year handle at the Fair Grounds was reported down 12%. The previous year's handle to that was about $2.9 million, which when compared to this year is off about 20%.
As we all know, handle at the flagship track is also getting walloped. For non-branded Derby and Oaks days, you're looking at about a 23% drop in handle.
Today, it was reported that Arlington handle is also on the ropes, too. For Preakness weekend last year to this year, handle is off 33.15%. Mother's Day weekend to Mother's Day weekend, handle is off 27.6%.
Meanwhile, other tracks are holding their own, like Belmont, who despite massive lower field size issues (worse than Churchill's or Arlington's) has handles only down about 2%. Pimlico's handle is slightly up.
These Churchill numbers aren't small numbers. When Keeneland was off about 7% with real field size trouble, it was surprising and the industry was in a bit of a tizzy. But Keeneland just set a handle record last year and the numbers are explicable. They made sense and in no way were a trend.
However, the CDI tracks are just continuing a trend - and appear to be getting worse. It, like the link above surmises, is likely being exacerbated due to the player boycott of CDI properties.
This is not a Kentucky story, or a Florida story, or a Louisiana story or an Illinois story. This looks like a Churchill Downs story. The tracks they are running are getting the crap kicked out of them, and right now, with hiked takeout angering customers and terrible headlines angering fans and horse owners, it does not look to get better soon.
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