Mar 24, 2013 6:38 PM
FLORENCE, Ky. (AP) - A shortened racing schedule at northern Kentucky's Turfway Park this winter has been difficult for horse owners, trainers and riders.
Trainer Susan Anderson told The Courier-Journal (cjky.it/14f0Lcq) that it's tough sometimes to make ends meet during the winter, especially with the abbreviated schedule.
"In the wintertime, you're just scraping by, trying to make ends meet, waiting for the spring and other tracks to open," said Anderson, who has been based at the Florence track for 10 years.
Keeneland opens on April 5, but the real relief will come on April 23 when Indiana Downs opens a six-month thoroughbred meet.
Turfway cut back from three-day race weeks to two days in February and March because the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission gave the track's September dates to Churchill Downs.
Turfway General Manager Chip Bach says the track decided to try something new over the winter because of the decision.
"The perception was we had lower-level, mediocre racing and they wanted the quality of Kentucky racing to be elevated," he said of the commission's decision. "Not that this is an excuse, but we had maybe a week to come up with an entire scheme on how to do that.
"We figured out what we earned a year in purses, conservatively, and worked toward a number that was sufficient for the racing commission. Their goal for us was like $170,000 a day, and I think we ended up at $140,000. The only way to do that was to significantly reduce race days."
He says track officials plan to meet with regulators and horsemen to talk about what worked and what didn't.
Trainer Doug Coyle has wintered at Turfway since 1978 and said the decreased racing dates are difficult to deal with.
"Five days to three was bad enough," he said. "Three to two was a major difference, too. ... It's hard to tread water in this situation.
"A lot of the owners have downsized, backed out for the winter. An agent said a couple of days ago, 'Well, we only have 12 more racing days here. But the bad part is it's going to take a month and a half to do it.' "
More Kentucky outfits are leaving the state during the winter.
Trainer Bill Connelly, who lives nearby, said he decided this year to keep four horses at Turfway, but he sent the rest to Florida.
"I want to be at home if I could," he said.
The limited racing dates also have an effect on riders.
"It's not good," said the meet's leading jockey, Norberto Arroyo. "Fortunately, I'm doing well, so I guess that makes up for the days we don't race. I really feel bad for the riders that are having a slow meet."
Information from: The Courier-Journal, http://www.courier-journal.com
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