By Jim Freer and Barry Unterbrink
During its first three days of racing with no spectators on site because of the coronavirus scare, Gulfstream Park posted an average daily total handle of $10.06 million.
That was the highest average handle among U.S. thoroughbred tracks for the three days between Friday 13 and Sunday March 15, according to HorseRacingFLA’s review of Equibase charts.
But Gulfstream’s $10.06 million average was a decline of 19 percent from a daily average of $12.32 million from the previous week’s three-day period of Friday March 6 through Sunday March 8.
Through this past Sunday, Gulfstream was averaging $10.93 million in daily total handle (also known as all-sources handle) for the first 77 days of its 2019-2020 championship meet.
Gulfstream’s all-time record is $10.56 million – set in its 2017-2018 champions meet.
Several factors related to the coronavirus should determine whether Gulfstream will set a new record during the Spring Racing meet.
There are ten more race days scheduled for the meet, which is set to end on Sunday March 29. The Florida Derby is scheduled for Saturday March 28, and Gulfstream’s latest official word is that it plans to finish the meet – without spectators (i.e. on-site bettors and patrons).
However, as of Monday morning, there are widespread expectations that circumstances may require Gulfstream and other tracks to cancel racing indefinitely.
The Centers for Disease Control has recommended that no events with fifty or more people should be held at least through mid-May of this year.
On race days, Gulfstream and other tracks have far more than 100 people on site – with track employees, trainers, jockeys, officials of state regulatory agencies, etc.
Total handle for a U.S. thoroughbred track is a combination of these bets made on its races: on-track; simulcasts at other part-mutuels and at Off-Track Betting locations; Internet and phone bets via Advance Deposit Wagering (ADW) services; sports books in Nevada, several other states and several offshore locations.
Gulfstream seldom provides public information
on the components of its handle.
However, officials of the track have said that is among those where on-track bets are less than ten percent of the total.
Those on-track bets are now gone at Gulfstream – indefinitely.
Numerous simulcast sites that take the Gulfstream signal are now closed.
Meanwhile, the sharp recent decline in the stock market and other financial concerns are forcing millions of Americans to reduce their discretionary spending. That, no doubt, is leading many ADW customers to cut back on their betting.
On the other hand, horse racing is one of the few sports where competition is continuing. How? Some bettors which usually would be wagering in events such as college basketball tournaments likely are betting on thoroughbred horses now.
In the next post this week, we will have additional stories on the how the coronavirus pandemic is impacting thoroughbred racing.