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Ellis Park Concludes 2006 Meet with Gains

6 September 2006

HENDERSON, Kentucky -- (PRESS RELEASE) -- Ellis Park concluded its 2006 race meet on Labor Day, Sept. 4, with gains in average daily on-track wagering and attendance. The 2006 meet, Ellis Park's first since rebuilding after a destructive tornado severely damaged the racetrack and its stable area in November 2005, offered 36 days of live racing, beginning July 19.

Total wagering for the 2006 meet reached $96.5 million compared to $115.5 million during the 41-day season in 2005. Due to the differences in race dates year over year, daily averages for wagering and attendance will be used for comparison purposes.

Average daily total wagering for the 2006 meet was $2.7 million, a decrease of 4.9 percent compared to the $2.8 million wagered in 2005. Average daily on-track wagering, which includes money wagered by patrons at the track on Ellis Park races and simulcast races around the country, was $320,045, an increase of 5.2 percent over 2005's average of $304,220. Average daily off-track wagering was $2.4 million, a decrease of 6.1 percent from the $2.5 million wagered on Ellis Park's signal by customers at simulcast outlets in 2005.

Average daily attendance jumped to 3,519, an increase of 19.7 percent from 2005's average of 2,939. Total attendance for the 36-day session was 126,666, up 5.1 percent over 2005's total of 120,481 despite having five fewer days of racing in 2006. Additionally, the meet was book ended by new records for daily attendance. Ellis Park broke a 21-year record for daily attendance on the final Sunday of the 2006 meet, Sept. 3, as 8,055 fans turned out for an afternoon of racing at the historic track, a 56-percent increase over the 5,171 fans who attended the final Sunday of the 2005 meet. Ellis Park also set a new opening day attendance mark this year with 5,248 patrons attending the start of the racing season, making it the largest opening day crowd since Churchill Downs Incorporated ("CDI") purchased the track in 1998.

Average field size for the 2006 meet was 7.34 horses, a 7.9 percent drop from the 7.97 average field size in 2005.

Severe weather during the meet resulted in the loss of seven races. A storm-related power outage forced the track to cancel five races on July 21, while strong winds and heavy rain caused the cancellation of two races on Aug. 10.

"Overall, we are pleased with the outcome of our 2006 race meet at Ellis Park," said Vice President and General Manager Brian Elmore. "Although the results were mixed, we are encouraged by the rebound in our on-track business this season compared to a year ago when we saw year-over-year decreases in on-track wagering and attendance. This season's improved results demonstrate the outstanding support we have received from the Tri-State area and local fans' passion for and appreciation of our product. To conduct this race meet given the damage we sustained last November is a triumph for our entire team and testament to the hard work and dedication of our employees and our Ellis Park horsemen.

"Severe weather disrupted two race days this season, and reduced field sizes continue to be a challenge for us," Elmore continued. "We are, however, delighted with the continued success of 'Big Four Stakes Saturday' and its popularity with customers both on and off the track. With the sale of Ellis Park to Ron Geary expected to close in the coming weeks, we are optimistic about what the future holds for Ellis Park and we look forward to the remainder of 2006."

CDI announced the sale of Ellis Park on July 17 to a company owned by Kentucky businessman Ron Geary. The transaction is expected to close in the third quarter of 2006.

Total race purses for the meet were $5.0 million, a decrease of 15.4 percent from the $5.9 million offered in 2005. Average daily purses were down 3.6 percent to $137,680 compared to the daily average of $142,834 a year earlier.

Equine heroics during the Ellis Park meet included strong performances in stakes races and several track record-setting performances. Florida-based Prospective Saint, trained by Martin Wolfson and ridden by Eddie Castro, emerged from a stretch duel with Maggie Slew to win the 25th running of the $150,000 Gardenia Handicap (Grade III) for older fillies and mares, the meet's annual racing highlight. The Gardenia highlighted the second annual "Big Four Stakes Saturday" that also saw victories by Act of God in the Regaey Island for 3-year-olds on turf; Cowgirls Don't Cry in the Anna M. Fisher Debutante for 2-year-old fillies; and Hadacure, who earned sole possession of the victory in the James C. Ellis Juvenile for 2-year-olds when Tis A Man, who had finished in a dead-heat for first, was disqualified for interfering with another rival.

The battle for leading jockey was tight through most of the meet, but Miguel Mena pulled away in the final days and ended the meet with 45 victories - 12 more than runner-up Victor Lebron, the meet's top apprentice rider. It was the first Ellis Park and Kentucky riding title for Mena, a 19-year-old native of Lima, Peru, who moved to the Kentucky circuit during the Churchill Downs meet.

Leading trainer honors went to Southern Illinois-based Ralph Martinez, who saddled 17 winners and easily turned back runner-up Forrest Kaelin, who had 10 wins. It was the first Ellis Park title for Martinez, whose primary client is Louis D. O'Brien, who earned "leading owner" honors. O'Brien sent 17 horses into the winner's circle during the meet.

Other racing highlights during the Ellis meet included a pair of stakes victories by the 4-year-old Junior College, who took the Don Bernhardt Memorial at 6 1/2-furlongs in track record time and then stretched out to a mile to win the Governor's Handicap. The record winning time by Junior College was one of four track records established during the meet, including a pair of track standards lowered on opening day of racing.

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