||Business at Lone Star Park 2009 Thoroughbred
Meet Reflects Local and National Economic Recession
a national trend experienced by most other racetracks across the country,
Lone Star Park ended its 2009 Spring Thoroughbred Meet, which was run
from April 9 through July 26, with decreases in both attendance and handle.
Average daily attendance decreased by 7.7 percent to 6,883 in 2009 compared
with 7,460 last year. Overall, 447,426 people attended the meet, 37,453
fewer than the 484,879 a year ago.
All-Sources wagering slipped 12.8 percent from $146.3 million last year
to $127.5 million in 2009. On track, wagering on live racing was $20.8
million down from last year’s $26.3 million, 20.9 percent, while
handle on imported simulcast racing decreased by 14.4 percent from $40.3
million to $34.5 million.
Wagering on Lone Star Park live races off track was $72.1 million, a
9.4 percent drop from last year’s $79.6 million.
“These are obviously disappointing results,” said Lone Star
Park President and General Manager Drew Shubeck. “The biggest reason
for the decreases in both attendance and handle is the global economic
downturn that has negatively impacted the local Dallas/Ft. Worth economy.
Our racing fans didn’t come out as often and wagered less money
when they were here.
“In addition, two major challenges to racing at Lone Star Park,
the purse structure and a lack of a level playing field, continue to have
a significant negative impact on our business,” added Shubeck. “Higher
purses in the surrounding states continue to draw horsemen and their better
horses out of Texas, which impairs our quality of racing. As well, illegal
internet wagering platforms are coming into our market attracting wagering
dollars resulting in a reduction in the percentage of contributions to
our purses and reducing our live on-track attendance.
“While we are disappointed with our results, we would like to
thank our dedicated and loyal horsemen and employees who continue to create
winning experiences for our customers as evidenced by our big event days,
which indicate that our product offering is still an attractive entertainment
value in a very competitive market even with the current economic conditions,”
Locally, the Dallas/Fort Worth unemployment rate for June jumped to
8.2 percent, a 60 percent increase from the 5.1 percent rate in June 2008.
Also, the nearby Arlington General Motors plant was closed for eight weeks
during the height of the Lone Star Park season. In addition, the soft
economy also impacted the Lone Star Park Group Sales business, which was
down 34 percent in attendance, or almost 16,000 customers compared to
2008, as area businesses severely cut back on corporate entertainment.
In response to the soft business levels in May, Lone Star Park launched
several Discounted Value Pack offerings including admission, programs,
reserved seats and food and beverage offers. These packages included a
Family Four Pack, Box Seat Value Pack and Counter Seat Value Pack that
were very popular and well received throughout the second half of the
Other factors that negatively impacted the 2009 Lone Star Park Spring
Thoroughbred meet were severe weather conditions and an outbreak of Swine
Severe thunderstorms and a local health department advisory on the outbreak
of the Swine Flu, which caused the cancellation of several major events
in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area that weekend, negatively impacted both attendance
and handle during Kentucky Derby weekend. The weather caused the cancellation
of three live races on Derby Day. Rain on Preakness Day and a three-week
period of extreme heat with temperatures at 100 degrees or above from
June 25 through July 12 also hurt business levels.
Due to the decrease in business levels throughout the meet, Lone Star
Park announced a 6 percent overnight purse decrease effective May 22,
cancelled six stakes races for 2009, downgraded another stake, and reduced
the number of scheduled races by seven from 626 to 619.
On the track, there were a total of 5,387 runners in 616 races during
the 65-day, 2009 Lone Star Park meet for an average field size of 8.7
per race, a decrease of 0.4 from last year’s average of 9.1 when
5,776 starters ran in 632 races.
Newcomer Chris Landeros, who turned 21-years-old on July 12, battled
all-time Lone Star Park leading jockey Cliff Berry, who has three previous
riding titles (2008, 2006 and 2005), into the last week of the meet before
pulling away to win the title with 97 victories, nine more than Berry’s
88. Lone Star Park’s all-time stakes winning jockey Eddie Martin,
Jr. was third with 57 wins.
Lone Star Park’s all-time training leader Steve Asmussen shattered
the previous record of 98 wins in a single season set by Cole Norman in
2003 with 117 trips to the winner’s circle to win his 11th training
title. His record-breaking 99th victory came on July 11 with Big Texas
Daddy in the $125,000 Texas Stallion Stakes (Staunch Avenger Division).
Bret Calhoun was the runner up with 59 wins and Danny Pish finished third
The owner’s race was won by Tom Durant, who previously won the
award in 2008, 2005 and tied for leading owner during the 2004 Fall meet,
with 26 wins, more than twice as many as his nearest rival. The battle
for second came down to the last week with the duo of Wayne Sanders and
Larry Hirsch’s 12 victories edging Nelson Bunker Hunt, and Heiligbrodt
Racing Stable, who each finished tied for third with 11 wins.
Jonesboro, winner of the Grade 3, $300,000 Texas Mile on Lone Star Million
Preview Day on April 25 was voted as the Horse of the Meet, as well as
Champion Older Male. In the Texas Mile, Jonesboro surpassed the $1 million
mark in career earnings. Jonesboro went on to finish second, only a head
behind Meet It’s a Bird in the Lone Star Park Handicap on May 25.
On May 10 in the Grade 3, $400,000 Lone Star Derby, Mythical Power,
trained by Bob Baffert and ridden by Victor Espinoza, who teamed up to
win this race with Wanna Runner in 2006, was an impressive 7 ½-length
winner. With that victory, Mythical Power earned Lone Star Park 3-Year-Old
of the Meeting honors.
Also on Lone Star Million Day, Monday, May 25, Wasted Tears, the Champion
Older Female, set a new turf course record of 1:32.81 in winning the Grade
3, $200,000 Ouija Board Distaff. The previous record of 1:33.56 had been
held by Kiraday (July 4, 1997).
Another highlight occurred on July 19, when Champion Claiming Horse
of the Meet, Waylay, owned and trained by Darrell Bravenec, set a new
track record by winning his sixth race of the meeting.
On Stars of Texas Day, Saturday, July 11, trainer Steve Asmussen and
jockey Justin Shepherd, who returned to Lone Star Park for the day and
won five races, teamed up to sweep both divisions of the Texas Stallion
Stakes with Big Texas Daddy in the male division and Camille’s Appeal
in the Pan Zareta Division for females.
Off the track, season highlights included crowds of 16,771 and 20,476
for racing and holiday fireworks on July 3 and 4, respectively. The highly
successful Lone Star Music Series, featuring six shows, attracted a total
of 85,490 fans, an average of 14,250 per concert, which was double the
average daily attendance during the meet.
Live racing at Lone Star Park will resume on Friday, September 25, 2009
with opening night of the 31-day Fall Meeting of Champions for American
Quarter Horses. During that meet, there will be special simulcasts of
the Breeders’ Cup World Championships from Santa Anita Park on Friday,
November 6 and Saturday, November 7.