Through the first 14 days of the 2009 meeting, on the eve of the ultra-popular Sunshine Millions, Gulfstream Park recorded an 8.6% increase in “live,” or on-track handle while also showing a 5.4% bump in all-sources handle.

Crowd counts are not taken at Gulfstream Park but the feeling among management and fans is that there are more people attending the races here this year than there has been since the facility was renovated in 2004.

Gulfstream Park President and General Manager Bill Murphy said, “Our increased business can be traced to the fact that we are putting together a team of people passionate about this sport.

“You can see it in the bounce in their step, in the effort they put into their work, whether they’re parking your car, showing you to your table, cleaning the concession area … they’re communicating their passion for their job.”

The racing office made a few adjustments from recent meetings and Mr. Murphy said that, too, has a lot to do with the increased business.

“Running five days a week instead of six as in past years serves three purposes,” he said. “One, it relieves the pressure on our horse population; two, it leads to bigger fields, which increases interest among horseplayers, thereby increasing handle; and three, it builds our purse account, and all horsemen will tell you that’s a very good thing for the future.”

The revamped parking lots to the north and south of the building and the new Jameson Jockey Club have been huge hits with fans.

“This has the look and feel of a tropical Saratoga,” said Neal Galvin, enjoying the Jameson JC with his friend and former neighbor, John McCarthy. Both are from Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

Mr. Galvin, manager of Our Blue Streaks racing stable and owner of an upstate New York fence company, also said, “The racing here has been great so far, the fields are large and it’s a great place to bet. There are a lot of fan-friendly aspects to Gulfstream this year … Free to get in, free to park, most seats are free, there’s lot of drink specials and the drafts only cost $1. That’s key.”

Mr. McCarthy, a real estate-asset manager based in Boston and Fort Myers, said, “It’s amazing that, in this economy, Gulfstream has progressed at the pace it has. The property looks terrific, you can see elements of Del Mar and the old Hialeah as well as the Bellagio here, and the staff is clearly enjoying themselves.”

Gulfstream Park is open Wednesdays through Sundays through April 23. First post is 1:15.