07/18/2004 11:00PM

Attendance, handle see slight decline


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Hollywood Park showed slight declines in average daily attendance and mutuel handle at the 65-day spring-summer meeting that ended Sunday.

The all-sources average handle of $10,807,693 marked a drop of 1.4 percent from the 2003 meeting.

Ontrack average attendance fell 1.8 percent, from 8,498 to 8,348, while average attendance at intertrack locations in Southern California fell 4 percent, to 9,889. The overall average was 18,237, a drop of 3 percent.

Handle figures mirrored those results. The average ontrack handle of $1,750,708 dropped 5.5 percent. Average intertrack wagering in Southern California was flat, a loss of 0.2 percent, to $3,999,484, while interstate handle fell 5.4 percent, to $3,996,544.

Betting through the Internet and by telephone grew 40.6 percent, to an average of $710,081, which exceeded management's expectations. More than $46.1 million was bet through those sources.

Track president Rick Baedeker said growth of 35 percent was projected by account-wagering services such as TVG and Youbet.

"We used their projections," Baedeker said. "We didn't think it would be that significant. Obviously, they were right."

The drop in ontrack handle did not surprise Baedeker, who said racing is suffering from competition from international betting services.

"What we're seeing is a shift to offshore rebaters," Baedeker said.

"It's not healthy. We have to figure out a way to compete."

Before the meeting, purses were cut for eight stakes. Purses for some overnight races were cut by $1,000. Purses averaged $412,350, a drop of 2.8 percent from 2003.

The spring-summer meeting marked the first time since Fairplex Park last September that a Southern California meeting did not have a purse cut during the season. Purses were reduced at the Oak Tree at Santa Anita and Hollywood Park fall meetings last year and the winter-spring meeting at Santa Anita earlier this year.

During the meeting, an overpayment from the 2003 spring-summer meeting was reduced from about $750,000 to about $250,000, Baedeker said.

The overpayment was reduced largely through higher commissions from purses, Baedeker said.

"It would have been a severe problem if we hadn't reduced it," Baedeker said of the overpayment.

Tyler Baze wins first career riding title

On the racetrack, jockey Tyler Baze won the first riding title of his career, winning 59 races, four more than Victor Espinoza. Baze, 21, won the Eclipse Award as the nation's leading apprentice rider of 2000.

Baze accented his title with a win on Star Over the Bay in Sunday's $150,000 Sunset Handicap. He immediately set his sights on winning the title at the Del Mar meeting, which begins on Wednesday.

"I'm going down there to be leading rider," he said. "I want to win every race I can. I want to be on top."

Jeff Mullins led all trainers with 37 wins, five more than Doug O'Neill. Mullins won his first spring-summer title and his third consecutive Southern California meet, a streak that includes the 2003 Hollywood Park fall meeting and the Santa Anita winter-spring meeting.