Positive Signs for 2013 Delaware Park Meet

Total handle was just slightly down despite 12 fewer racing days this year.

Despite 12 fewer live racing days, all-sources pari-mutuel handle during the Delaware Park meet was only down about $1.5 million, while average daily handle increased 13.2%.

It was a positive development for the racetrack, which is attempting to maximize its product with fewer dates under a deal with the Delaware Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association.

Delaware Park raced 81 days this year versus 93 in 2012. Total handle on live racing for the meet was $115,151,678, down 1.4% from $116,771,916, the track reported Oct. 28.

Average daily handle on live racing was $1,421,626 versus $1,255,612 last year.

"The last couple of years have been challenging because of the increased competition, the steady decrease in the foal crops, and the sluggish economy," Delaware Park executive director of racing John Mooney said in a release. "By reducing the number of days of the meet, we positioned our product to be competitive with those challenges, and we are upbeat about the results.

"Moving forward into the 2014 season, we will continue to explore every option to strengthen our racing product in the current environment."

The 2013 season was hammered out after sometimes-contentious negotiations between track management and the Delaware THA. Several years ago Delaware Park raced a minimum of 130 days a year.

The racetrack, which has casino gambling, has experienced declines in gaming revenue, which ultimately fuels the purse account. Casinos in Maryland and Pennsylvania have dented business at Delaware Park and the state's two harness racetrack casinos, Dover Downs and Harrington Raceway.

Despite competition for horses from Monmouth Park in New Jersey and Parx Racing in Pennsylvania, field size at Delaware Park increased this year. According to The Jockey Club Information Systems, Thoroughbred field size averaged 6.99 horses per race, up from 6.89 in 2012. (The track supplements its programs with Arabian racing.)

Total purses fell slightly from $18.89 million in 2012 to $18.42 million, but the daily average jumped 13.2% from $200,988 to $227,528.

The race meet was highlighted by the grade I Delaware Handicap, won by Besilu Stable's Royal Delta for a second straight year. The Bill Mott-trained mare is among six entered in the Nov. 1 Breeders' Cup Distaff (gr. I), which she won the past two years.