Calder Concludes 2005 Season with Declines in Attendance, Handle

Calder Race Course ended its 120-day Calder meet Oct. 16 with declines in attendance and wagering from a year ago.

Declines can be contributed to a vigorous hurricane season in south Florida, which forced cancellations and postponements of entire race cards, as well as the loss of a significant amount of turf racing, officials said.

On-track attendance for the 120 live days totaled 509,958 compared to 544,745 for the 123 live days in 2004. The 2005 daily average attendance of 4,250 showed a 4.05 % decrease from last year's daily average of 4,429.

Daily average on-track handle on the live product was $361,489, down 6.27%from last year; daily average combined ITW (inter-track wagering) and ISW (inter-state wagering) was $2,409,064, down 8.46%; and the combined daily average handle was $2,770,554, down 8.18% from the 2004 meet. The daily average of total handle (all sources on all days, including simulcasting figures) was $3,392,815, down 4.41% from 2004.

The average number of runners per race for the 2005 meet was 7.62 compared to 7.81 in 2004, down 2.35%. Meanwhile, the average for daily purses was $210,000 in 2005 compared to $213,000 last year.

Two major storms had a direct impact on live racing at Calder in 2005. Hurricane Dennis and its related storms forced Calder to postpone its historically largest handle day, the Summit of Speed, from July 9 to July 10. Total handle on the card of sprint racing was $7,020,071 compared to $10,843,994 - the all-time combined mutuel handle record at Calder - in 2004.

The track lost another live racing day Aug. 26, due to Hurricane Katrina, which swept through the region before going on to devastate areas of Louisiana and Mississippi. The two lost live racing days were not made up; the meet originally was to have 122 live racing days, but instead had 120. There were 123 live racing days in 2004.

The rainy season also caused a considerable amount of turf races to be moved to the main track. In 2005, 85 races carded for turf were forced to the main track, while that number was 66 in 2004.

"We have been having another hard year in terms of weather," said Calder President Ken Dunn. "The hurricane season has been overly active and we have had some difficult decisions to make, but we know we made the right decisions. Rescheduling the Summit of Speed was one of them. Under the circumstances, we did rather well and were lucky to put on the event only a day after a hurricane had passed by. We still consider ourselves fortunate, compared to the rest of the state (referring to storm damage in parts of Florida)."

Although overall attendance numbers were down Calder's special event days continued to attract above average crowds and higher wagering, officials said. The special event days included the Summit of Speed, Juvenile Showcase, and Festival of the Sun.Calder also introduced the Festival of the Sun Preview in 2005, which was held three weeks prior to the track's signature event.

The 2005 Calder meet was highlighted by a number of impressive individual accomplishments, including jockey Eddie Castro winning a record nine races in one day to set a North American record, and later breaking the record for most victories in a single Calder season (193 set in 1979 by Walter Guerra). Jockey Manoel Cruz, second in the final standings, also broke the latter record and rode the most stakes winners of the meet, 11 in all.

Capturing meet-end honors were trainer Tim Ritvo, who took home his first title with 45 wins, and jockey Eddie Castro, who scored 218 victories. Steve Dwoskin and Michael Sherman tied in the owner standings with 22 wins each.

The 59-day Tropical meet begins Oct. 17 and concludes Jan. 2. The season features events such as The Florida Million, three Grand Slam days, and a handicapping contest that serves as a qualifying round for the DRF/NTRA National Handicapping Championship.