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Saratoga Attendance, Handle Down Slightly

Bad weather blamed for the declines.

(Edited New York Racing Association press release)

Attendance and handle turned down fractionally for the first time during the 2009 Saratoga Race Course meet after two inches of rain Aug. 28 and 29 lowered attendance on Shadwell Travers (gr. I) Day and forced seven of the weekend’s 11 carded turf races off the turf. Attendance was down 1.6%, on-track handle down 1.6%, and all-sources handle down 2.8% from 2008 totals through week five. 

The inclement conditions Aug. 29 contributed to a 19.2% reduction in betting interests compared to Shadwell Travers Saturday in 2008, resulting in declines of 17.3% in on-track and 18% in all-sources handle.

Attendance for the first 30 days of the 2009 meet was 704,423, down from 715,793 in 2008, for a daily average of 23,481 compared to 23,860.  (*See Note on attendance below.)

On-track handle at Saratoga was $94,468,368, down from $95,977,544 in 2008, for a daily average of $3,148,946 compared to $3,199,251.

All-sources handle (which includes money bet on Saratoga races from simulcast outlets nationwide) was $415,187,788, down from $426,958,703 in 2008, for a daily average of $13,839,593 compared to $14,231,957.

Average betting interests per race through week five increased 3.8% (8.3 vs. 8.0) and total betting interests increased 5.1% (2,501 vs. 2,379) from 2008, with five more races run so far in 2009 (302 vs. 297).  Turf races totaled 126 with 29 taken off the turf, compared to 106 on and 38 off in 2008.

“Our handle and attendance figures have leveled out from the gains we witnessed during the first three weeks, but the 2009 Saratoga meet is still considerably outperforming all trends throughout the industry, and our own expectations,” said New York Racing Association president and CEO Charles Hayward.  “Beautiful late summer weather appears likely for a classic closing weekend as Rachel Alexandra aims to become the first female ever to win the grade 1, $750,000 Woodward this Saturday (Sept. 5), along with the meet’s traditional premiere two-year-old races, the grade 1, $300,000 Spinaway on Sunday (Sept. 6) and the grade 1, $300,000 Three Chimneys Hopeful on Monday (Sept. 7).”

* Note: Attendance figures for Giveaway Days include patrons who pay multiple admissions to obtain more than one giveaway item, either at the track entrance or at the multiple admissions area inside the track.  Through the fifth week of the 2009 meet, there have been three Giveaway Days compared to four in 2008.