Churchill Downs completed their second September meet on Sunday, with total handle for the meet reaching $38,810,285 down 16.15% from 2013. Average daily handle for the 12 day meet was $3,234,190, and average handle per race was $318,117.
After increasing takeout, handle for the Churchill spring meet was down 11.5%. Churchill has cited lower field sizes as the key cause of the handle losses, but it's worth noting that average field size for the September meet was down only 0.34.
Meanwhile, on the southern end of the state, Kentucky Downs had a very successful season, handling $15,880,755 on their five racing days, a 23.9% increase from 2013. Average daily handle for the meet was $3,176,151, and average handle per race was $317,615.
Kentucky Downs has grown substantially since implementing a massive takeout decrease in 2012. In 2011, prior to the takeout decrease, average daily handle was around $915,000. That has grown by 247% after the 2014 season.
In 2011, I highly doubt anyone could have fathomed Kentucky Downs being a point where their handle was practically on par with Churchill, but that's where we are at. If Kentucky Downs' trend of growth and Churchill's trend of declines continue, handle will be Churchill will be outhandled by Kentucky Downs by a significant margin.
Horseplayers are no stupid people. They want to play the product that offers them the best value, and they are moving more and more towards Kentucky Downs. With North America's highest average field size (10.2) and lowest takeout, Kentucky Downs is the best bet in racing. It's as simple as that.