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Suffolk Downs Posts On-Track Gains

On-track business was up during the 2007 meet at Suffolk Downs in Massachusetts.

Suffolk Downs officials are hoping 2007 was a year the racetrack and the Massachusetts Thoroughbred industry turned yet another corner toward a brighter, stable future.

Track officials reported gains in on-track business during the 101-day meet that ran from May 5-Nov. 10. Average daily on-track handle of $122,702 was up 14% from $107,385 in 2006, while average daily on-track attendance jumped 22%, from 2,687 last year to 3,288 this year.

Total handle on the live product was $90,383,438 in 2007, down 4% from $94,004,434 last year. The daily average of $903,834 was down 1% from $912,664 last year, track officials said.

As for purses, $11,568,028 was paid this year versus $10,314,578 for a 103-day meet last year, according to The Jockey Club Information Systems. Purses averaged $114,535 a day this year versus $100,142 last year.

“We are encouraged by the increases in attendance and handle, as they reflect a reversal of recent trends,” Richard Fields, who purchased a significant interest in Suffolk Downs shortly before the 2007 meet began, said in a statement. “We made a number of improvements this year to enhance the overall customer experience, and it has made a difference. We are already moving forward with additional improvements for next year.”

Suffolk Downs this year put in a trackside picnic area, opened a gift shop, and upgraded televisions throughout the plant. Next year, officials plan to introduce a player rewards and loyalty program.

On opening day, which featured the simulcast of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), the track reported attendance of 17,459 and record total on-site handle of $2.37 million. The attendance figure was the largest for opening day since 1992.

On Sept. 22, the return of the Massachusetts Handicap lured 19,191 patrons, the most since 1996, when Cigar won the MassCap.

“Reviving the MassCap sent an important message to the horse racing fans of New England that we are committed to bringing the highest caliber of racing to Suffolk Downs,” Chip Tuttle, chief operating officer of Suffolk Downs, said in a statement.

Officials said they are making barn-area improvements to attract more horsemen next year.

On the racetrack for the 2007 meet, Tammi Piermarini won the first riding title of her career and became just the third female jockey to win a meet title in the 72-year history of Suffolk Downs. Piermarini had 100 wins from 584 mounts. She joins Suzanne Kelly (1980) and Denise Boudrot (1974) as the only women ever to win riding Suffolk Downs.