Handle Rises 18.7% at Finger Lakes, Purses Dip 3%

Finger Lakes Gaming & Racetrack (FLGR), coming off a big 2022 in terms of growth of handle, enjoyed even greater success during the recently concluded 2023 race meet. Total handle increased by 18.7 percent, to $120,541,745. On-track handle also bumped up by $4,024 to $1,973,368. The track bucked the national trend, which has seen a 4 percent decline in wagering. The 2023 numbers built off of the increases from the previous year, when total wagering was up 16.5 percent, despite racing one fewer day (88 total). The cancellation came in June and was due to poor air quality caused by Canadian wildfires. The total number of races dipped 2.9 percent from 730 to 714, but field size grew to an average of 6.88 starters per race compared to 6.78 in 2022. Average per-race handle surged by 21.4 percent, from $139,014 to $168,825. There were eight days when the handle exceeded $2 million during the meet, which operated on a Monday through Wednesday schedule. Purses paid out decreased to $14,442,094, or 3 percent. That was a result of fewer races being run and the cancellation of the New York Oaks due to lack of entries, despite repeated efforts to reschedule the annual stakes race for 3-year-old New York-bred fillies. "We thought offering free Equibase programs on-line would help us, and based on the number of downloads, our fans responded in kind," said Chris Riegle, president and general manager of FLGR. "We also had several promotions in conjunction with the Daily Racing Form which also help increase awareness. "We'd like to thank our horsemen, staff, and guests who watch and wager on us throughout North America for a great racing season." Riegle is optimistic purses will increase in 2024. "It seems like we're all fighting for racehorses, and based on back-to back excellent seasons we're looking at an across-the-board purse increase for next season." Windylea Farm was the leading owner with earnings of $321,405, followed by M. Anthony Ferraro ($310,766) and Happy Face Racing Stable ($258,631). New York Derby winner Allure of Money, owned by Happy Face Racing, led all equines in earnings with $153,737. New York Breeders Futurity winner Whatchatalkinabout was next at $96,928, while Fiery Heart, the winningest horse at Finger Lakes this season, earned $91,720 with seven victories and one third in eight starts. The 63rd season of racing at FLGR is expected to commence in late April.