01/07/2004 12:00AM

Business mixed at Calder


The 2003-04 season at Calder was successful from a racing standpoint, but it closed on Jan. 2 with mixed reviews business-wise.

Calder's multi-stakes days were big hits, with the Grand Slam I and Grand Slam II programs resulting in two of the biggest business days in Tropical Park history. The second annual Florida Million program also drew a strong card and a larger-than-normal crowd.

But ontrack attendance for the 53-day meet averaged only 4,816, down more than 5 percent from the previous year, and the handle on full-card simulcasts was off nearly 12 percent from last year. On a positive note, the average ontrack handle on Calder races was up 2.1 percent, while the combined, all-sources daily average handle was up 0.4 percent.

"Although we were down slightly in ontrack attendance, the fact our ontrack wagering and combined handles were both up is encouraging," said Calder president Ken Dunn.

Eddie Castro, a finalist for the Eclipse Award as the nation's premier apprentice jockey, easily won the jockey title with 83 victories. Eddie Plesa Jr., among the winningest trainers in Calder history, captured his third Tropical training title with 21 victories, while Michael Sherman successfully defended his crown as leading owner.