PARX HANDLE NUMBERS UP AGAIN IN 2022
by Dick Jerardi
It was going to be hard to top the 2021 average daily handle numbers on Parx races which were up more than 70 percent from 2019. But thanks to a flying start on the three days right after Christmas (fiscal year ends at Christmas), a record Pennsylvania Derby Day and solid cards throughout the year, the 2021 numbers were beaten.
In 2021, with 144 days, $391,210,422 was bet on Parx races, a $2.72 million daily average. In 2022, the track ran 148 days with a total handle of $417,483,194 for an average of $2.82 million.
Nearly $14 million was handled on those three days after Christmas, which certainly helped. The almost $2 million bet into a Philly Big 5 mandatory payout was the perfect parimutuel storm.
Pa. Derby Day 2021 set a handle record of $13.2 million. That was blown away in 2022 with a handle of $18.8 million on what was clearly the best card in the racetrack’s history.
Joe Wilson, Parx’s Chief Operating Officer, credited the switch from Saturdays to Wednesdays and the shift from four-day weeks to three-day weeks as perhaps the most obvious reason for the increased numbers between 2019 and 2021.
The only Saturday card in 2021 was Pa. Derby Day. In 2022, the track raced live on six Saturdays, including Pa. Derby Day and for each of the Triple Crown races. In the weeks with Saturdays, Parx did not race on Wednesdays. That will change in 2023 when racing will be conducted on Wednesdays even during weeks with Saturday cards (Triple Crown, Pa. Derby Day) and a Sunday card (Father’s Day).
Parx was quite unlucky on Ky. Derby Day and Preakness Day in 2022.
“It was like 38 degrees and raining on Kentucky Derby Day, like 110 on Preakness Day,’’ Wilson remembered. “Belmont was okay.’’
The reason for running on those five Wednesdays in 2023 with Saturday or Sunday cards is, according to Wilson, “I don’t want to disappear from anybody’s radar.’’
The Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday schedule has really allowed Parx to carve out its place among all the simulcast signals.
“What we did was take the extra week break in August to keep the (total) days the same,’’ Wilson said. “When you’re running in August against Saratoga, it’s kind of tough.’’
This fiscal year has not exactly gotten off to the same start as last year. That nearly $14 million from last year became $0 this year when the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday cards had to be canceled after the disastrous-for-track-maintenance heavy rain, followed by dramatic temperature drops rendered the track unusable. The five stakes scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday will be run next week, but, Wilson said: “it’s not the same as the three days right after Christmas when everybody’s off.’’
A mandatory Philly Big 5 payout, scheduled for this Wednesday, will be next Wednesday. There will be almost $250,000 in the carryover pool heading into next week.
But, as Wilson said, it won’t be the same as if the mandatory payout had been the Wednesday after Christmas.
“We had all that rain,’’ Wilson said. “It was 60 degrees Friday morning. Then, it turned to snow. By midnight, it was 5 degrees. You can’t do anything for that.’’
No, that is an unwinnable battle. So, the start to the year isn’t exactly what could have been. Now, it’s about how 2023 goes from here to the finish line.