With 12 racing weeks completed in the 2013 Scioto Downs Racino live harness racing schedule, the numbers are encouraging for the Columbus five-eighths mile oval. The increase in purses from the VLT machines that were installed and saw the first money go though them on June 1, 2012, has re-energized the horsemen that have been racing there for years.
"Owners are going out and buying more horses to race here,” said Scioto's general manager of racing operations Stacy Cahill. "The more horses that race here, the more competitive and full our fields get, and then more people wager on the product.”
People all over the nation are paying more attention to the races at Scioto in 2013. The amount wagered off track on live Scioto races is up 100.045 percent from last year, while live on track handle is up 17.2 percent.
"There have been a lot of improvements for racing over the past year, so it's hard to pinpoint the exact change that had the most impact,” continued Cahill. "But there are a lot of things that when put together, create movement for our product.”
Some of those changes include: an updated clubhouse and tvs for those dining and wagering on track, more races with higher purses, larger fields with more competitive races and some different drivers coming in from other states, including Ronnie Wrenn Jr. from Michigan and current leading driver Tony Hall who had most recently been racing in Pennsylvania.
Scioto has also been impacted by the currently running River Downs meet at Beulah Park, just nine miles away. River Downs, in Cincinnati, is building a new grandstand this summer and making way for the VLT facility on grounds, which prevented horses from racing there at the same time. The Ohio State Racing Commission approved the race meet to be held at Beulah Park for 2013. Previously Scioto and Beulah had an agreement that allowed each track to benefit from being the only track in the Columbus area running a live race meet and simulcast parlor. The total amount wagered at Scioto on imported signals is down 11.38 percent this year over 2012.
"For many years, we had an agreement that Beulah would race from mid-September through Kentucky Derby Day and also be the only facility open for simulcasting,” explained Cahill. "Then on the Sunday after the Derby, we would open our doors for simulcasting with the live race meet starting later that week.
"Now, with the River meet at Beulah, they are open for simulcasting at the same time we are and our import numbers are suffering--we are not doing the business we have in previous years as the Thoroughbred players are staying at Beulah all year.” (Scioto Downs)