Churchill Downs Concludes 2007 Spring Meet with Gains in Average Daily On-Track Wagering and Attendance

Churchill Downs concluded its 2007 Spring Meet today with gains in average daily on-track wagering and attendance while experiencing a decline in off-track and all-sources wagering over the 52-day racing season that began April 28. Since the meet included five fewer days of live racing than the 2006 spring season, daily averages in wagering and attendance are used for year-over-year comparisons.

Average daily attendance during the 2007 Spring Meet grew 5.48 percent to 12,994, compared to 12,319 during the 2006 spring season. Total attendance for 2007’s 52-day meeting was 675,710 versus a total attendance of 702,175 over 57 days in 2006, a decline of 3.77 percent.

Average daily on-track wagering, which includes wagering by on-track customers on Churchill Downs’ live races and simulcast races imported by the track, was $1.86 million, up 6.29 percent from average daily on-track wagering of $1.75 million during the 57-day Spring Meet in 2006. Average daily wagering from all sources – which includes on-track wagering, plus wagers made at racetracks, simulcast outlets and through account-wagering services around the world – was $11.11 million, down 2.97 percent from the average daily all sources total of $11.45 million one year ago. Average daily off-track wagering was down 4.64 percent to $9.25 million in 2007 from the $9.70 million wagered in 2006.

“Churchill Downs has traditionally reported wagering and attendance numbers at the end of race meets, but it is important to understand that we manage our business based on revenue and profitability,” said President Steve Sexton. “We will provide information on those metrics when Churchill Downs Incorporated reports its 2007 second-quarter earnings in early August.”

Total on-track wagering during the 2007 Spring Meet declined 3.11 percent to $96.65 million, compared to the $99.75 million wagered during the 2006 Spring Meet that featured five extra days of live racing. Total off-track and all-sources wagering also declined, down 12.97 percent and 11.46 percent, respectively, with off-track wagering totaling $481.13 million in 2007 versus $552.84 million a year ago, and all-sources wagering totaling $577.78 million this season, compared to $652.59 million wagered during the longer 2006 Spring Meet.

“Our entire team is very pleased with the on-track results from Churchill Downs’ 2007 Spring Meet,” Sexton continued, “especially the growing popularity of our Friday ‘Happy Hours’ promotion, which continues to draw a great mix of new fans and experienced horseplayers to the track to kick off their weekends with twilight racing. Our on-track events, entertainment and promotions, coupled with the competitive fields assembled each week by our racing office, helped us grow average daily attendance by almost 6 percent this season, even though rain on Kentucky Oaks Day and the Thursday before caused our Derby week attendance to fall by about 13,000 patrons year over year.

“Despite the soggy start, we enjoyed another solid Kentucky Oaks and Derby weekend, with new wagering records set on our Kentucky Oaks Day race card and the second-highest all-sources wagering on the Kentucky Derby Day race card. Over those two days, we entertained 256,710 fans on-track, including Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth of England and her husband, His Royal Highness Prince Philip, and added new elements to our storied event, such as the nationally televised Kentucky Derby Red Carpet Show, that carried another compelling aspect of the Derby experience into millions of U.S. households.

“The dip in off-track wagering was due to a number of factors, including softness in key simulcast markets, horsemen’s decision not to allow our simulcast signal into wagering outlets managed by the Choctaw Nation, and the fact that two account-wagering services and an affiliated wagering outlet that offers rebates were not taking bets on Churchill Downs races this spring. Nonetheless, we expect revenues from the account-wagering services that are accepting wagers on Churchill Downs races to equal those we received a year ago due to higher host fees, and that’s what matters to horsemen’s purses and our bottom line.

“As our 133rd Spring Meet comes to a close, we want to extend our sincere thanks to our customers, horsemen, sponsors, racing officials, and to our fantastic team of employees for another memorable season or racing under the Twin Spires.”

Average field size for the 2007 Spring Meet was unchanged year-to-year at 8.14 starters per race. Total purses paid during the 52-day meet were $25.28 million, compared to $27.55 million paid over the previous 57-day meeting. With five fewer days of racing in 2007, average daily purses rose 0.59 percent to $486,205, compared to the daily average of $483,343 in 2006.

While the memorable victories by James Tafel’s homebred Street Sense in the $2 million Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (Grade I) and Derrick Smith and Michael Tabor’s Rags to Riches in the Kentucky Oaks (GI) introduced the racing and sports worlds to two exciting new stars, there was no shortage of star power on display during the rest of Churchill Downs’ record $8.3 million Spring Meet stakes schedule.

A pair of Grade I races on Kentucky Derby Day saw Canadian-based Sky Conqueror unleash a frantic rally to nip Brilliant by a nose in the $500,000-added Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (GI) and Hystericalady, trained by Northern California legend Jerry Hollendorfer, take the $250,000-added Humana Distaff (GI).

West Point Thoroughbreds’ Flashy Bull held off Magna Graduate to win the $750,000-added Stephen Foster Handicap, the Grade I headliner on the track’s $2.2 million “Stephen Foster Super Saturday” on June 16. Other major winners in the day’s six stakes races were the Todd Pletcher-trained Indian Vale, who took the $300,000-added Fleur de Lis (GII), and Chelokee, who took the $200,000-added Northern Dancer Breeders’ Cup (GIII) for trainer Michael Matz, who had won the Kentucky Derby in 2006 with the ill-fated Barbaro. Foster Day also saw the Bill Mott-trained Quite a Bride set a course record for 1 1/16 miles in a front-running victory in the $150,000 Early Times Mint Julep (GIII) on the Matt Winn Turf Course.

Outstanding performances during the Spring Meet also included a dazzling victory by Fabulous Strike in the Aristides Breeders’ Cup and a sharp victory by Iowa-based Miss Macy Sue in the Winning Colors (GIII). Heiligbrodt Racing Stable and JMJ Racing Stable’s Rated Fiesty completed a remarkable meet with a pair of dominating wins in stakes for 2-year-olds. The Steve Asmussen-trained daughter of Exchange Rate defeated males in the Kentucky Breeders’ Cup (GIII) during Kentucky Derby Week and ended the meet by winning the 107th running of the $100,000-added Debutante Stakes (GIII) for fillies by 6 ½ lengths in stakes record time. Asmussen completed a sweep of the meet’s three graded events for juveniles when he won the 106th running of the $150,000-added Bashford Manor (GIII) with Vinery Stable’s Kodiak Kowboy, who also won in stakes record time.

Other memorable stakes performances were turned in by Remarkable News, who notched a front-running win over Brilliant in the $250,000-added Firecracker Breeders’ Cup (GII); Lady Joanne, who scored an impressive victory in the $150,000-added Dogwood Breeders’ Cup (GIII) for Kentucky Derby-winning trainer Carl Nafzger; Wanderin Boy, who took the Alysheba (GIII) for trainer Nick Zito; and Overbrook Farm’s Fiery Pursuit, who scored an upset in the $300,000 Louisville Breeders’ Cup (GII) for Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas.

Julien Leparoux collected his second consecutive Spring Meet riding crown. The 23-year-old native of Chantilly, France, who earned a 2006 Eclipse Award as leading apprentice jockey, pulled away in the meet’s final two weeks to finish with 70 victories. Rafael Bejarano finished second in the “leading jockey” race with 56 wins, while Shaun Bridgmohan closed strongly to edge Robby Albarado for third by a margin of 52-50.

Leparoux and veteran Calvin Borel turned in spectacular one-day efforts late in the meet as each won six races on a single afternoon, becoming only the fifth and sixth jockeys to achieve that feat in the track’s 133-year history. Leparoux piloted his six winners on June 27, while Borel enjoyed his remarkable afternoon on July 5. Hall of Fame jockey Pat Day, Churchill Downs’ all-time leader in victories, holds the single-day win record at Churchill Downs as he rode seven winners on June 20, 1984. Day also had six wins at Churchill Downs on four occasions during his distinguished career.

Alonso Quinonez was the meet’s top apprentice jockey with 24 victories.

Steve Asmussen enjoyed one of the most spectacular meets in Churchill Downs history as he collected his fourth “leading trainer” crown and established a record for total victories in the Spring Meet. Asmussen ended the meet with 46 victories in the 52-day session, which erased the previous record of 43 set a year earlier by Dale Romans in a 57-day meet. Asmussen earned his second Spring Meet training crown and his win total included three stakes victories by juvenile stars Rated Fiesty and Kodiak Kowboy, as well as a win by Inca King in the Jefferson Cup (GII).

The title of “leading owner” went to Des Moines, Iowa, attorney Maggi Moss who collected her first Churchill Downs owner's crown. Moss, who led the nation’s owners in total victories in 2006 and sits atop those rankings again this year, jumped to the lead in the early days of the 2007 Spring Meet and never surrendered her advantage. The University of Kentucky graduate ended the meet with 18 wins, eight more than Vinery Stable LLC and Heiligbrodt Racing Stable, which tied for second. Trainers Steve Asmussen and Tom Amoss conditioned the winning horses owned by Moss.

2007 v. 2006 SPRING MEET COMPARATIVE TOTALS

                            2007 (52 days)         2006 (57 days)             % Change

Attendance

Total                    675,710                     702,175                           -  3.77

Daily Average         12,994                        12,319                              5.48

 

On-Track Wagering

Total                    $ 96.65 million                 $ 99.75 million            -  3.11

Daily Average       $ 1.86 million                   $  1.75 million                6.29

 

Off-Track Wagering

Total                   $481.13 million                 $552.84 million            -12.97

Daily Average       $   9.25 million                 $    9.70 million            -  4.64

 

Total Wagering

Total                   $577.78 million                 $652.59 million             -11.46

Daily Average      $  11.11 million                 $ 11.45 million             -   2.97

Churchill Downs, the world’s most legendary racetrack, has conducted Thoroughbred racing and presented America’s greatest race, the Kentucky Derby, continuously since 1875. Located in Louisville, the flagship racetrack of Churchill Downs Incorporated (NASDAQ Global Select Market: CHDN) also operates Trackside at Churchill Downs, which offers year-round simulcast wagering at the historic track. Churchill Downs will conduct the 134th running of the Kentucky Derby on May 3, 2008. The track’s 2007 Fall Meet is scheduled for Oct. 28 through Nov. 24. Churchill Downs has hosted the Breeders’ Cup World Championships a record six times. Information about Churchill Downs can be found on the Internet at www.churchilldowns.com.