07/25/2003 11:00PM

Belmont meet up and down

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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Attendance was up, but on-track handle and total handle were down at the 55-day Belmont spring/summer meet, according to figures announced Saturday.

Total attendance was 478,187, an increase of 2.8 percent compared with last year's total of 465,220.

Total handle on Belmont races was down 2.3 percent from $657,789,145 to $642,782,455. On-track handle declined 6.5 percent to $77,324,678 from $82,740,074.

"Considering all the factors, the meet went well," said New York Racing Association president Terry Meyocks. "Obviously, weather was a negative factor for the majority of the meet. Business was hurt by rainy weather virtually every weekend until the end of June, and the Memorial Day weekend was a total washout."

A crowd of 101,864 came out to watch Empire Maker upend Funny Cide's Triple Crown in the Belmont Stakes, a day in which it rained throughout the card.

"What probably would have been the biggest Belmont Stakes Day ever was one of the worst weather days in recent memory," Meyocks said. "That was a shame for our fans."