At Del Mar, the combined handle from opening day and the first Saturday of the meet was up 4.2% to $32,153,371. Attendance for those two days was about the same as last year, down 0.2% to 62,479.
A direct comparison between this year's Del Mar meeting and the 2013 meet is not possible because this year's meet started on a Thursday, instead of the traditional Wednesday.
The track's accounting department came up with a comparison of numbers by taking the opening Wednesday from 2013, dropping the following Thursday, and matching up four days to four days in its calculations. When it did so, the numbers showed on-track handle up 2.1% at a daily average of $3,090,524 this year. The track's advance-deposit wagering numbers along with its Southern California wagering figures this season showed a notable gain of 7.9%. Overall, the track's total average daily handle increased 4.9% to $14,697,782.
Del Mar's attendance figures held firm in the four-day comparison with a daily average of 24,960 this year just besting 24,831 last year, an increase of 0.5%. The 2013 opening day gathering was 43,030, while this summer's beginner was 42,021.
"We most certainly had a fine week to start the 2014 season," said Del Mar executive vice president for racing Tom Robbins. "The support by our horsemen was not just good, it was terrific. We've got a full barn area, we've had full fields and the racing so far has been first-rate."
Saratoga also registered positive numbers, including an impressive 20.4% spike in attendance when comparing opening weekend this year, Friday through Sunday, to opening weekend last year. Attendance reached a total of 73,873 for those three dates, well more than last year's 61,352 which was impacted by bad weather on opening day.
Total handle numbers for Saratoga's opening weekend were up 1.8% to $52,809,445. The New York Racing Association noted that handle and attendance numbers were up for each of the first three individual race dates July 18-20.
"The steps taken by the New York Racing Association to enhance the guest experience and improve the quality of our racing is reflected in the successful launch of our 2014 Saratoga meet," said NYRA president Christopher Kay.
While improved weather helped attendance numbers, NYRA officials noted that Saratoga in 2014 offers many improvements in its on-track experience, including 750 new high-definition television sets, an enhanced sound system, improved wireless capabilities, and a new entertainment area for families.
On the West Coast, Mike Pegram, president of the Thoroughbred Owners of California saw nothing but good things in Del Mar's quick start.
"Del Mar is a place where every horseman in California wants to win a race, so it is no surprise to see the positive participation by our owners and trainers in the first week of this new meet," he said. "We all appreciate the special atmosphere at this racing facility and we further appreciate the good attitudes and enthusiasm of the Del Mar staff and the Del Mar racing fans. It is a fine place to go racing."
Del Mar's field size was strong through the first four cards and a total of 40 races. The average there was 9.4 runners per race. Last summer through the first five days and 45 races the field size average was 8.8.
The track's "Ship and Win" program, now in its fourth summer, continues to attract horses. Through five racing days last year there were 28 such horses who had run at the session. This year, after just four days, there have been 34. Each "Ship and Win" horse banks a check for $1,000 for running, then those who win earn an extra 33.3% in purse money on top of their regular money.
Del Mar's 36-day race meet returns to action July 23 with first post slated for 2 p.m. (PDT)
At Saratoga, after the July 21 card, racing will continue for another 36 days on a Wednesday through Monday schedule, concluding Sept. 1.