05/27/2005 12:00AM

Aqueduct business down

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The New York Racing Association had steep declines in both attendance and handle during the 83-day winter/spring meet that ended May 1.

Daily average ontrack handle was down 15 percent, from $1,288,311 to $1,094,629. That includes money wagered on incoming simulcasts. Ontrack handle on Aqueduct's races only was down 17.4 percent, from $767,221 to $633,496.

All sources total average handle was down 10.4 percent, from $8,663,317 to $7,765,246.

Ontrack attendance dropped 18 percent, from a daily average of 3,874 to 3,178.

"We anticipated a 10-percent 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, a NYRA senior vice president.

Nader cited three additional reasons for the declines.

"First of all, our customers had to adjust to our new tote system," Nader said. "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. . . . Finally, the uncertainty of weather caused many problems, particularly in a very unseasonably cold March.