By Jim Freer and Barry Unterbrink
Over the March 28th-29th weekend, Florida's Gulfstream Park set records of $53.8 million in one-day total handle and $11.3 million in average daily total handle for a race meet.
Those numbers are based on HorseRacingFLA's review of Equibase charts.
Gulfstream set the single-day record on Saturday March 28, Florida Derby day - and it did not include any "live handle."
|2018 Gulfstream Park Xpress Bet Suite View|
No Spectators. As on all days since March 13, Gulfstream had "no spectators" racing on Florida Derby day as part of its efforts to comply with federal and state government guidances on limiting the size of public gatherings amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. No on-site media either, preventing us from reporting there on a day that usually has a festive atmosphere with a full house of more than 15,000 fans.
Gulfstream seldom provides detailed beakdowns of the components of its handle. But it has said that its live share, like many other tracks, has dropped to the 10 percent range. That share likely is larger on Florida Derby days with large crowds.
While precise data are not readily available, there are reports that the majority of the day's bets on Gulfstream races were done via advance deposit
wagering (ADW) Internet and phone accounts.
Many race tracks and Off-Track betting offices that usually have considerable betting on Gulfstream were closed due to the coronavirus scare.
Gulfstream, especially its championship meet, is always popular among ADW bettors.
And ... on last Saturday, Gulfstream was like an "only game in town" for many of them. Santa Anita Park, Aqueduct Racetrack, Laurel Park and Fair Grouds were among major tracks that did not have racing due to the coronavirus situation.
In addition, the NCAA men's basketball tournament was cancelled, the NBA season was suspended and Major League Baseball had postponed its opening weekend.
The previous Gulfstream record for daily average total handle was $10.6 million, set in the 2017-2018 championship meet.
Total handle is also known as all-sources handle. It is a combination of bets placed on a track's races from these locations: On site;
other pari-mutuels; off-track betting offices; advance deposit wagering (ADW) accounts; sports books in Nevada and other states; and sports books in various off-shore jurisdictions.
Gulfstream's previous single-day record of $49.9 million was set on March 30, 2018, which also was a Florida Derby day. Both days were rain free, with conditions Listed as Fast and Firm.
On both days, Gulfstream had fourteen races. Last Saturday, Gulfstream's attraction to bettors included an average field size 11.1 horses. It ran 155 starters - the most since HRFLA began tracking Gulfstream handle in July 2015.
For its 2018-2019 meet, Gulfstream had average daily total handle of $10.2 million. Florida Derby Day all sources handle was $47.5 million.
As of Friday morning, Gulfstream had not released any data on handle for its championship meet or on this year's first quarter. We will report that information when Gulfstream makes it available.
We have been tracking Gulfstream handle data since July, 2015. Gulfstream officials have consistently said that the numbers we report are accurate.
Over the coming weekend we plan to post additional reports on Gulfstream's handle, field sizes and race purses for the championship meet.
We also will have early reports on the racing and handle for Gulfstream's spring meet, which opened this past Thursday. Last year, the spring meet had average daily total handle of $6.2 million.
What is Essential?
Gulfstream is in Hallandale Beach, Fla., in Broward County.
It has continued to race even though Broward on March 22 issued an executive order rhat does not list horse racing among "essential" businesses that can keep operating while government states of emergency remain in effect.
Gulfstream told the Broward government that it feels it should be among nonessential businesses allowed to operate at mnimum capacity to maintain the value of property and operations.
Gulfstream noted that it is responsible for 3,200 horses and for backside employees who care for them. Those horses need to train and race, Gulfstream said in communications with the Broward government.
Broward County accepted Gulfstream's conten tion on training, but not for racing. It also has noted that no workers at Gulfstream have come down with the coronavirus.
Meanwhile, Gulfstream continues to emphasize the enhanced safety and health measures it has taken for jockeys, backside workers and track employees.
In recent days there have been no reports that Broward is planning to halt racing at Gulfstream.
It should be noted that as Gulfstrream continues to race, it pays taxes on racing-related revenues to Broward County and to Hallandale Beach.
Assuning a 20 percent blended rate, the takeout was about $10 million on the Florida Derby day's $53.8 million in handle.
In percentages that are not readily determinable that takeout is divided among Gulfstream, the Florida Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association (FHBPA), ADWs and other sources of the betting.