07/03/2001 11:00PM

Colonial doubles handle in opener

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Total handle on opening day at Colonial Downs in Virginia on Tuesday was nearly double the opening-day total from last year, officials said, while ontrack attendance was stagnant.

The handle increase illustrates the impact scheduling can have on business in the simulcast era. This year, Colonial opened on a Tuesday, when competition in the simulcast market is thin. Last year, the track opened on the Friday before Labor Day, when virtually every major track in the country was running live and sending their signals to out-of-state sites.

Handle from all sources on Tuesday for Colonial's nine-race program was $1,185,809, compared with $590,723 last year. The handle on Colonial's signal from out-of-state sites was $958,924, compared with $279,974 last year.

Attendance was 5,177 this year, compared with 5,186 in 2000. Ontrack handle was $226,885, down from $310,749 last year.

After four years of running a fall meet that failed to meet projections, Colonial is hoping to reverse the trend by running a summer meet this year, from July 3 to Aug. 7. The track had previously scheduled its Thoroughbred meets beginning on Labor Day weekend and ending in mid-October.

Colonial officials said they are hoping to take advantage of Virginia's tourist season to drum up business at the track, located in a rural stretch of the state between Williamsburg and Richmond.