The 37-day 2008 Belmont Fall meeting, which ended on October 26, produced mixed business results. All-sources handle on NYRA races was $356.3 million, versus the equivalent 2007 figure of $346.5 million, for an increase of 2.8 percent. As the 2008 meet included four more days than the 2007 meet, there was actually an 8.3 percent decline in the equivalent daily average all-sources handle figure. However, that decrease does represent an improvement over the approximately 10.2 percent all-sources handle decline registered during the 2008 Saratoga meet.

“The decline in all-sources handle at the Fall Belmont Park Meet was disappointing but consistent with national wagering trends,” said Charles Hayward, NYRA president and CEO. “There is no question that the economic climate in New York and around the country has had a negative impact on our live handle as well as the New York State Off-Track Betting Corporations and other simulcast customers.”

The economic downturn impacted attendance as well, as 147,515 went thorough the turnstiles over the 37-day meet, compared with the total of 165,045 who attended last fall’s 33-day meet, for a decline of 10.6 percent. Daily average attendance declined by 20.3 percent, dropping from 5,001 to 3,987.

Total purses rose 3.5 percent, from $20.5 million to $21.2 million, however factoring the four additional days of the 2008 season, average daily purses declined from $622,116 to $574,036, or 7.7 percent, consistent with the handle decline.

On track, the sporting highlight of the meet was Curlin’s impressive victory in the Jockey Club Gold Cup. Emotionally, the highpoint was the retirement party for the popular old gelding Evening Attire on the final Saturday of the meet. Gary Contessa was the leading trainer for the meet with 16 wins, while Edgar Prado took the jockey title with 43 victories.