07/31/2011 9:56PM

Del Mar attendance up, all-sources handle nearly equal to 2010

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DEL MAR, Calif. - Average ontrack attendance has increased nearly 5 percent and average all-sources handle is down less than 1 percent through the first two weeks of the Del Mar meeting, track officials announced on Sunday.

Ontrack attendance has averaged 20,737, a gain of 4.8 percent over an average of 19,790 through a similar period last year.

All-sources handle, including simulcasting and account wagering locations, was $11,656,120, a decline of 0.03 percent from an average of $11,688,100 over the first two weeks of 2010. Average ontrack handle is down 0.02 percent, from $2,266,917 to $2,262,772. Average account wagering has increased 16.5 percent, from $2,024,453 to $2,353,463.

Sunday marked the 10th day of the 37-day meeting, which runs through Sept. 7.

Track officials said successful business early in the meeting is vital to keep pace with the 2010 meeting, which had a three-day pick six carryover and strong handle figures during part of Labor Day weekend last year.

“We did have a big finish” last year, said chief financial officer Michael Ernst said. “We’re always looking at the big closing weekend we had last year. It’s nice to get off to a good start.”

There are other encouraging signs, Ernst said. Through Sunday, field size has increased slightly, from 8.10 starters through the first two weeks of 2010 compared to 8.23 through a similar period this year. Ernst said that claiming activity “is at levels we haven’t seen since 2007,” an indication that owners are seeking to become involved in the sport this summer.