09/06/2004 12:00AM

Attendance falls, ontrack handle static

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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Ontrack attendance for this year's Saratoga meet was down just over eight percent from last year's record total, falling below the one million mark at 963,432. Pending final-day totals, ontrack handle was down by less than one percent.

Attendance and handle figures were strong through the first several weeks of the meet, but those figures declined sharply as the meet stretched on into September, even with ideal weather during the final week.

Rainy weather dampened several key Saturdays, including the opening Saturday card that featured the Diana Handicap and the Test Stakes, and the Aug. 21 card that featured the Alabama and Hopeful Stakes.

Daily purses averaged a record $637,495. Average field size was up slightly from last year, at 8.56 starters per race, compared with 8.49 in 2003.

John Velazquez went 0 for 2 on Labor Day before catching a plane to ride Pollard's Vision to a second-place finish in the Pennsylvania Derby at Philadelphia Park, and finished the meet with a record 65 victories, four more than the mark he had established a year ago.

Todd Pletcher was blanked with three starters on the final program, and equaled his record total of 35 winners saddled last year.