Tampa Bay Downs, the only Thoroughbred racetrack on Florida's Gulf Coast, continued to make forward strides during its 2003-04 meet with substantial gains in attendance and handle.
General manager Peter Berube, in an interview in mid-March, said one of the track's goals was to clear the $3-million mark in total daily average handle for the first time. When the 93-day session ended May 2, the figure stood at $3,166,051, up 24.15% from the previous meet.
Other numbers were up as well. On-track handle on the live product averaged $293,959, up 20.88% from the 2002-03 meet. Handle on Tampa Bay races from other in-state outlets averaged $323,858, up 11.55%. And out-of-state wagering on the local product averaged $2,548,233, up 26.36%.
The increase in on-track live handle was aided by the fact that, because of contractual problems, the New York Racing Association and Magna Entertainment Corp. products--with the exception of Gulfstream Park--weren't available. That probably contributed to a slight decline--0.76%--in total on-site handle, which came in at $53,931,123.
Tampa Bay had six days on which total handle on the live product topped $4 million. One of them was Kentucky Derby (gr. I), May 1. Berube said the Tampa signal ranked sixth of 46 Thoroughbred tracks in total handle that day.
An all-time handle record was set March 14, Tampa Bay Derby (gr. III) day, when $5,353,782 was wagered on the program.
Daily average attendance was 3,495, up 10.92% from the previous meet. Total attendance was 325,025, the highest figure since 1995, when total attendance hit 332,958 for 89 days.
Total purses for Thoroughbred racing (the track also offers Arabian racing) came in at $12,622,650, up 5.53%. Thoroughbred purses averaged $135,727, up 5.53% and the highest ever for Tampa Bay.
Field size averaged 9.94 horses, up from 9.29 last season. The track made more use of its turf course during the 2003-02 session. It offered 191 grass races, up 11.70% from the previous season.
A record 248 horses were claimed during the meet for a total value of $2,418,250.