Historical Gains in Kentucky

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Kentucky purses continue to benefit from the success of historical racing, which registered another strong year.

The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission this week released final fiscal year 2017 handle reports for the gaming, which continues to thrive as gross commission improved 41% to more than $71.61 million. That increased handle for the machines generated more than $5.87 million for the Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund, which benefits purses. That number was up 38.8% compared with fiscal year 2016.

Besides generating the KTDF money, historical racing also generates purse money for the tracks that offer it: Kentucky Downs, Ellis Park, and a joint venture of Keeneland and Standardbred track The Red Mile. When that estimated purse money is included, historical racing in fiscal year 2017 has generated nearly $14 million for Kentucky purses.

The $13.96 million generated in fiscal year 2017 is up nearly 40% from fiscal year 2016. (The KHRC's fiscal year ends June 30).

The track-level purse estimates are based on previously announced formulas that saw 14% of the track's net commission go to purses. Based on that rate, historical racing at Kentucky Downs generated about $5.19 million for purses (the track shared some of that money with Ellis Park), $2.25 million to be split between Keeneland and The Red Mile, and $655,672 for Ellis. 

Kentucky Downs this year plans to transfer about $1.65 million earned through net commissions and through the KTDF to Ellis Park to keep the state racing circuit strong. In 2016 Kentucky Downs transferred $1.35 million such funds to Ellis.

Purses at Ellis this year are scheduled to average a record $210,000 a day, including a record $40,000 for maiden races if the horse was bred in Kentucky and is by a Kentucky stallion.

Historical racing also generates money for the Kentucky Thoroughbred Breeders' Incentive Fund. Historical racing handle in fiscal year 2017 generated about $500,000 for that fund.

Churchill Downs Inc. announced this year a $60 million project to develop its own historical racing games and open a facility at its Trackside training center property in 2018. Turfway Park is putting plans together to add the games, which since their 2011 launch have seen nearly $2.66 billion wagered.

  Kentucky historical horse racing
   (dollar figures in millions)

 Economic indicator




 Total handle




 KTDF money




 Kentucky Downs handle 




 Keeneland/Red Mile




 Ellis Park





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