Churchill Downs Concludes 2006 Fall Meet

Churchill Downs concluded its 2006 Fall Meet on Saturday, Nov. 25, with solid gains in on-track wagering and a slight increase in average daily attendance.

The 132-year-old Louisville, Ky., racetrack hosted the Breeders’ Cup World Championships for a record sixth time on Saturday, Nov. 4, smashing previous records for on-track and all-sources wagering and drawing a crowd of 75,132, the third-highest attendance in Breeders’ Cup history. Breeders’ Cup wagering and attendance figures are not included in Churchill Downs’ meet-end wagering and attendance figures. As such, average daily wagering and attendance numbers, comparing 20 days of racing in 2006 with a 21-day Fall Meet in 2005, are used for year-over-year comparisons.

On-track wagering for the 2006 Fall Meet, which includes money wagered on Churchill Downs live races and wholecard simulcasting at the historic track, totaled $26.62 million over 20 days, compared to $24.47 million wagered over 21 days in 2005. Average daily on-track wagering was $1.33 million, up 13.68 percent from the $1.17 million wagered a year earlier.

Off-track wagering, which includes money wagered on Churchill Downs races at simulcast-wagering outlets around the world, was $145.62 million over the 20-day period in 2006, compared to $157.73 million wagered over the 21-day meet in 2005. Average daily off-track wagering was relatively unchanged year-over-year, with $7.28 million wagered in 2006 versus $7.51 million in 2005, a dip of only 3.06 percent.

Total wagering was $172.24 million in 2006 versus $182.20 million in 2005, with average daily wagering from all sources down 0.81 percent to $8.61 million from the $8.68 million wagered in 2005.

Average daily attendance climbed slightly during the 2006 Fall Meet to 7,848, up 0.36 percent from the daily average of 7,820 in 2005. The average number of betting interests per race was 9.57 horses, a decline of 5.90 percent from the average of 10.17 in 2005.

Average daily purses for the 2006 Fall Meet were $486,974, up 1.74 percent from the average of $478,632 per day paid in 2005.

Churchill Downs President Steve Sexton said strong business levels during the meet’s opening week helped fuel on-track wagering gains. “We broke from the gate with our innovative ‘Stars of Tomorrow’ program, featuring full fields of 2-year-old runners. We introduced the concept one year ago, and elected to open and close our 2006 Fall Meet with ‘Stars of Tomorrow’ race cards, based on their popularity with customers. Our fall stakes program, which was highlighted by Premium Tap’s commanding performance in the Grade I Clark Handicap, continued to offer highly competitive racing to fans on track and around the country. We also enjoyed a strong Thanksgiving holiday weekend in terms of on-track attendance, and again served more than 7,000 traditional holiday meals in our dining areas to race fans who wanted to give thanks with friends and family under the Twin Spires.

“Overall, we are pleased with the results from our fall season and with the outstanding results our Churchill Downs team delivered on Breeders’ Cup Day,” Sexton concluded. “The home of the Kentucky Derby has established itself as the premier venue to host racing’s Championship Day, and we extend our gratitude to our horsemen, employees, customers and the greater Louisville community for making the event a tremendous success.”

Churchill Downs set new records for on-track and total wagering during the 23rd Breeders’ Cup World Championships on Nov. 4, the first time the track hosted U.S. racing’s richest day since 2000 – and since the sweeping $121 million renovation of the home of the Kentucky Derby was completed in 2005. Total wagering on the Breeders’ Cup at Churchill Downs from outlets around the world was a whopping $140.3 million, 13.2 percent higher than the previous all-sources record of $123.9 million set in 2005 at Belmont Park. Patrons at Churchill Downs wagered a record $18.3 million on the 10-race card, besting the previous record of $16.3 million set at Santa Anita Park in 2003. Additionally, Churchill Downs can now take credit for the top five Breeders’ Cup attendance totals, with this year’s crowd of 75,132 registering as the third highest in Breeders’ Cup history.

The 2006 Fall Meet saw first-time winners in all three of the categories that matched human competitors. Scott Blasi earned the first “leading trainer” title of his career as he saddled winners of 17 races. The victory total for Blasi, a 33-year-old native of Caney, Kan., and an 11-year assistant to three-time Churchill Downs training leader Steve Asmussen, included a pair of stakes victories by Stonestreet Stable LLC’s unbeaten Tiz Wonderful, who won the $200,000-added Kentucky Jockey Club (Grade II) and the $100,000-added Iroquois (GIII). Todd Pletcher won three races on the meet’s final day to edge Steve Flint 10-9 for second place.

The battle for leading jockey of the meet went down to the final few races. Veteran Calvin Borel opened a huge early lead in the first two weeks of the meet, but saw Shaun Bridgmohan, the first-call rider for Blasi, draw gradually closer. Borel still held a four-win advantage when he suffered a broken right wrist in a Thanksgiving Day riding mishap that ended his meet. Bridgmohan finally caught Borel with a victory aboard Ciao in the $65,000 Caressing Handicap with two races remaining in the meet, but failed to win either of the final two races on closing day and ended in a 23-23 tie with Borel for top honors. It was the first “leading rider” crown at Churchill Downs for Bridgmohan, while Borel added his 2006 title to a Fall Meet trophy he had earned in 1999.

The Louisville, Ky., family of Richard, Elaine and Bert Klein earned their first “leading owner” title during the Fall Meet. Frequent contenders for that crown in recent meets at Churchill Downs, the Kleins won nine races to win the 2006 fall title. Their victory total included a win in the Pocahontas Stakes with Change Up. Gus Goldsmith finished second with six victories, and Oxbow Racing LLC and Joseph Novogratz were next with four wins apiece.

Racing highlights of the meet were topped by several memorable performances in the 23rd renewal of the Breeders’ Cup World Championships. The day’s eight Breeders’ Cup races included notable performances by Shadwell Stable’s Invasor, who may have sewed up “Horse of the Year” honors with a win over Darley Stable’s Bernardini in the Breeders’ Cup Classic – Powered by Dodge (GI); Lord Derby’s Ouija Board, who scored her second victory in three attempts in the Emirates Airline Filly & Mare Turf (GI); a record 10-length victory by James Tafel’s Street Sense in the Bessemer Trust Juvenile (GI); and a win by Frank Calabrese’s Dreaming of Anna in the Juvenile Fillies (GI).

Top stars of historic track’s regular stakes schedule during the meet included Premium Tap, who finished third to Invasor in the Breeders’ Cup Classic and returned to Churchill Downs to win the 132nd running of the $500,000-added Clark Handicap presented by Norton Healthcare (GI) by 7 ¼-lengths. Premium Tap covered the Clark’s 1 1/8-mile distance in stakes record time and just missed the track record in a dominating performance. Ermine, runner-up in the 2006 Kentucky Oaks (GI) in May, fought off Joint Effort to win the $300,000-added Falls City Handicap (GII) on Thanksgiving Day. Tiz Wonderful swept the meet’s top stakes races for 2-year-olds with his victories in the Kentucky Jockey Club and the Iroquois, while the Kleins’ Change Up won the Pocahontas over a field that included third-placed Lady Joanne, but Lady Joanne turned the tables on her rival on the meet’s closing day with a win in the $200,000-added Golden Rod (GII).

Other outstanding performers in the meet include It’s No Joke, winner of the Emirates Airline Ack Ack (GIII); Unbridled Sidney, winner of the $250,000 Cherokee Run Breeders’ Cup; Mrs. Revere (GII) winner Precious Kitten; and Sabellina, who outlasted European import Silca’s Sister to win the Cardinal (GIII) by a nose.

While live racing at Churchill Downs has concluded for the year, year-round simulcast wagering continues at Trackside Churchill Downs on Sunday, Nov. 26. Wagering on simulcast races from around the country will be offered weekly, Wednesday through Sunday, with gates opening daily at noon EST.

To view a table with year-over-year comparisons in wagering and attendance, click here.

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 133rd running of the Kentucky Derby on May 5, 2007. The track’s 2007 Spring Meet is set for April 28 through July 8. 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.