Attendance and handle were both down significantly at the 2005 Aqueduct winter/spring meet, which concluded on May 1. Daily average handle on-track during the 83-day meeting was down 15% from $1,288,311 in 2004 to $1,094,629 this year. Of this, the New York Racing Association on-track handle (money bet on Aqueduct's races) was down from $767,221 in the 84-day 2004 meet to $633,496, or 17.4% this year.All sources total average handle was down from $8,663,317 to $7,765,246, a decline of 10.4%, while attendance dropped 18% from a daily average of 3,874 to 3,178.
"We anticipated a 10% decline in all-sources handle after we discontinued our simulcast relationship with 10 rebate sites in late January that collectively accounted for $300 million in annual handle on New York Racing Association races," said Bill Nader, NYRA senior vice president. "There are three other major reasons for the decline in numbers at Aqueduct," he added. "First of all, our customers had to adjust to our new tote system. Secondly, there was a decline in the size of our fields. At one point, we had to be very restrictive of horses coming in from racing jurisdictions where horses were infected or in contact with the disease called `strangles' and in recent weeks, equine herpes. Finally, the uncertainty of weather caused many problems, particularly in a very unseasonably cold March."