Tuesday, July 29, 2008
SARATOGA MEETING ON THE IMPROVE AFTER SOGGY START
Business through the first week of the 2008 meet at Saratoga Race Course, while trending down from the record on-track handle posted in 2007, is improving after unrelenting and torrential rain on Opening Day Wednesday and Thursday, according to the New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA).
Attendance is off 25.7 percent, on-track handle down 12.6 percent, and total all-sources handle declined 13.7 percent compared to 2007 opening week figures.
Attendance for the first six days of the 2008 meet was 125,617, down from 169,134 in 2007, for a daily average of 20,936 compared to 28,189 in 2007. (*See NOTE on attendance below.)
On-track handle at Saratoga was $18,429,950, down from $21,080,631 in 2007, for a daily average of $3,071,658 compared to $3,513,439 in 2007.
Total all-sources handle was $86,510,328, down from $100,293,710 in 2007, for a daily average of $14,418,388 compared to $16,715,618 in 2007.
All-sources handle of $25,017,333 for Saturday’s Whitney Day fared well against last year’s record-breaking non-Travers Day all-sources handle of $27,708,217, a modest 9.7 decrease. Saturday’s Whitney date (July 26) was the earliest in Saratoga history, and non-Travers Day all-sources handle was topped only by last year and by the $25,533,940 bet in 2002 when the Whitney was run on August 3.
Total betting interests and turf races also decreased. Week One races totaled 60, with 479 betting interests and nine races on the turf, compared to 58 races, 533 betting interests, and 21 turf races (including one steeplechase) during opening week 2007. No races were taken off the turf during the first week of 2007, compared to 13 off the turf races so far this meet.
NYRA’s new purse incentive program for distance races kicked off with Saturday’s 4th and Sunday’s 9th. The program provides incremental purse increases to maiden, allowance and overnight stakes races for every betting interest over six that start on the dirt at 1 1/8 miles and longer, and every betting interest over eight that start on the turf at longer than 1 1/8 miles.
Saturday’s 4th race was a non-winners-of-one allowance at a mile and an eighth with an original purse of $68,000. With eight betting interests, the purse increased by $16,000 ($8,000 each for two additional starters) to $84,000. The purse for Sunday’s 9th, the Henry Walton overnight stakes at 1 1/8 miles on the dirt, carded with a purse of $80,000, jumped $10,000 to $90,000 with betting interests.
“We came into the 2008 Saratoga meet knowing that the economy, gas prices, and a particularly early opening in July would result in business declines compared to a record 2007,” said NYRA President and CEO Charles Hayward. “But, ultimately, we’re more dependent on the weather than anything, and after a rough start early, we rebounded over the weekend. We’ll look for the weather to cooperate as the meet progresses. Further, business in the thoroughbred industry has been soft since the Belmont Stakes and we anticipate outperforming the industry during the Saratoga meeting.”
Read more articles in the Saratoga category.