09/22/2008 11:00PM

Decline will force cuts in 2009 purses


POMONA, Calif. - The Los Angeles County fair meeting at Fairplex Park ended on Monday with a decline in all-sources handle in line with what track executives feared would occur in a slow economy, according to equine manager Paul Ryneveld.

Ryneveld said all-sources handle at the 16-day meeting fell about 8.5 percent from the 2007 meeting. In addition, the slump in business this year will have a negative effect on purses for the 2009 meeting, though Ryneveld said details will not be known until more thorough handle figures are compiled in coming weeks.

"We'll end up being overpaid and it will affect us going into next year," Ryneveld said. "We'll regroup in two weeks and look at purses and stakes schedule. One thing we don't want to do is touch overnights."

The drop in all-sources handle, including ontrack, simulcasting, and account wagering, was not as severe as track officials originally projected, Ryneveld said.

"We were hoping to be below 10 percent," he said. "We didn't want a double-digit drop. We were hoping to keep it better than 5 percent down. Out-of-state numbers were up for a while. Ontrack handle has been very rough, and inter-track wagering has been off. I don't think people have as much money."

Ryneveld said attendance, which at Fairplex Park is largely judged on program sales, increased approximately 1 percent. The track does not charge admission to the racetrack, but charges admission to the fair grounds.

The track offered a different stakes schedule this year, grouping stakes on some weekend programs, including four on last Sunday's card.

"We found it to be pretty successful," Ryneveld said. "It's something to look at for next year, to try to make it a major event."

Trainer Mike Mitchell clinched the training title on Monday's closing day, scoring wins with Mixed Berries and Band of Thunder. Mitchell finished the meeting with 9 wins from 21 starters, one more win than Bill Spawr and Jeff Mullins.

Jockey Martin Pedroza had a phenomenal meeting, winning his 10th consecutive Fairplex Park title with 42 winners. He won seven races in a day on two occasions. Agapito Delgadillo finished second with 16 wins in a career farewell. His agent indicated earlier this week that Delgadillo, 42, was retiring from riding after the Fairplex Park meeting.