08/03/2016 1:06PM

Business down from last year in most categories


DEL MAR, Calif. – Average attendance and ontrack handle declined compared with last year in the first third of the Del Mar summer meeting, through Sunday, but the track showed a gain in out-of-state handle during that time, according to data provided by track officials.

For 13 racing days from July 15 through Sunday, average ontrack handle declined 11.1 percent from $2,090,986 in 2015 to $1,857,956. Average all-sources handle, including revenue from satellite and account-wagering sources, was down 2.4 percent to $12,476,801.

Average out-of-state satellite and account-wagering handle increased 2.8 percent to $5,892,153.

Average attendance was down 5.5 percent to 15,972.

Track president Joe Harper said several factors have contributed to the decline in handle, including the absence of a few deep-pocketed bettors.

“You lose two or three of those guys, it’s a major hit,” Harper said. “It’s not uncommon for those guys to represent 10 percent of the total ontrack handle.”

Field sizes are down compared to the opening weeks of the 2015 meeting. Through Sunday, fields have averaged 8.32 runners per race compared with 8.87 runners during a similar time in 2015. The entire 2015 summer meeting averaged 8.79 runners per race. The current summer meeting ends Sept. 5.

Harper said Del Mar’s November race meeting, introduced in 2014, could be a factor in the business declines for the summer meet. He said some customers may prefer to attend the races later in the year when the facility is not as crowded.

“It takes some of the immediacy out of [attending] during the summer,” he said. “I’ve had people, especially locals, tell me, ‘We’ll avoid the crowd and go in November.’ I think that’s part of it.”

Harper said there is the potential to regain some lost business. The Pacific Classic program on Aug. 20 is expected to produce strong business, with an expected start by the popular horse California Chrome.

“Hopefully, that will give us a boost,” he said. “A lot of the publicity around that seems to help, too.”