07/20/2005 11:00PM

California handle decline slows

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DEL MAR, Calif. - Handle figures on racing of all breeds in California fell 1.5 percent from Dec. 26, 2004, through July 4, 2005, according to data released at a meeting of the California Horse Racing Board on Thursday. The figures were an improvement over those from Dec. 26 through May 6.

Handle during that period on northern and Southern California Thoroughbred races, Quarter Horse racing, and harness racing was $2.2 billion, a drop of $35.5 million from the same period the previous year. Handle on northern California Thoroughbred racing was up .39 percent, to $546.9 million, whereas handle on Southern California Thor-oughbred racing was down 1.5 percent, to $1.4 billion.

Racing board figures released in May showed that handle on all breeds was down 4 percent from Dec. 26 through May 6. The most recent data includes Kentucky Derby Day, which was not included in the May comparison, and the American Oaks program at Hollywood Park on July 3, which handled more than $22 million.

In May, track officials said that wet weather in January and February greatly hurt handle.

"It is bothersome if you just look at the Thoroughbreds in the south that there has been $22 million bet less than last year," said John Harris, the board's chairman, while reviewing the report.

Gelding notification rule near-final

The racing board is finalizing a rule that would result in penalties for trainers who fail to report when a horse is castrated and races as a gelding for the first time.

According to Harris, horses who are not reported as first-time geldings would be scratched, much the same way that horses not treated with Lasix are withdrawn when the medication is not administered.

Most of Thursday's meeting was dominated by lengthy presentations by representatives of the three tote companies regarding technological updates: AmTote, Scientific Games, and Autotote.

Scientific Games is the current provider of tote systems for Southern California tracks and offtrack sites, but its contract is up for renewal next year.

Officials with Scientific Games told the racing board that alternate selections will be available for multi-race bets such as the pick six beginning July 27. Problems with software testing prevented the use of alternate selections on Wednesday's opening day at Del Mar.