08/11/2006 11:00PM

Belmont attendance down, handle steady


Attendance was down significantly while handle numbers were mixed for the Belmont Park spring-summer meet that concluded on July 22, according to figures released Saturday by the New York Racing Association.

Overall handle on Belmont's races fell 1.5 percent from a daily average of $11,261,142 in 2005 to $11,089,909. Ontrack handle on Belmont's races rose 1 percent from a daily average of $1,570,872 in 2005 to $1,585,901. Belmont's meet was 59 days in 2006, 60 days in 2005.

Overall ontrack handle, which includes wagering on simulcast races, rose 2.7 percent from a daily average of $1,997,146 in 2005 to $2,051,951.

Attendance dropped 9.3 percent from a daily average of 7,057 to 6,399.

NYRA officials were upbeat about Belmont's spring session.

"Despite a Belmont Stakes without the participation of the Kentucky Derby or Preakness winner and a total handle decline of over $6 million for that day and a rainy month of June, we were able to sustain our ontrack business," said Bill Nader, chief operating officer for the NYRA. "The month of May was strong but the rain stopped us cold in June and ended a streak of five consecutive months of positive NYRA economic numbers."

According to NYRA figures, business remains positive for the year. Ontrack handle, including simulcasts, is up 6.3 percent from a daily average of $1,741,973 to $1,850,920. Total handle on NYRA races is up 2 percent from an average of $9,541,937 in 2005 to $9,738,011 this year.

Field size at Belmont rose from 7.42 in 2005 to 7.77 this year. Overall field size for the year in New York has risen from 7.41 to 7.87.