07/31/2004 12:00AM

Daily handle hits record high


Total daily average handle was a record, but average ontrack handle and average daily attendance were down during the 60-day Belmont spring-summer meeting that ended July 25. The 2003 meet comprised only 55 days.

Total daily average commingled handle for the 2004 meet was $12,086,814, an increase of 3.4 percent from the 2003 average of $11,686,954. The previous record of $11,959,803 was set in 2002.

Daily average ontrack handle was $1,327,224, a decrease of 5.6 percent from $1,405,903 last year. The daily average attendance of 8,319 was down 4.3 percent from the 2003 daily average of 8,694. Because the meet was five days longer than last year, overall handle was up 12.8 percent to $725,208,823 and overall attendance was up 4.4 percent to 499,166.

Thanks to the popularity of Smarty Jones, Belmont enjoyed a record-setting Belmont Stakes Day. A record crowd of 120,139 watched Birdstone deny Smarty Jones the Triple Crown. The previous Belmont Stakes record crowd was set in 2002 when 103,222 saw Sarava upend War Emblem's Triple Crown bid.

Total commingled handle on Belmont Day was $110,994,890, easily besting the mark of $98,835,163.

"We were happy, it was a very good meet," said Bill Nader, senior vice president of the New York Racing Association. "The average commingled handle was a Belmont spring-summer record. We went on a terrific run from the week after the Preakness through the month of June. Smarty Jones created the momentum and we were able to carry it."

Racing returns to Belmont in the fall beginning on Sept. 10.