07/23/2012 7:51AM

Del Mar up in handle but down in attendance for opening week


DEL MAR, Calif. – Del Mar showed gains in ontrack and all-sources average handle but a decline in ontrack average attendance through Sunday, the fifth day of the 37-day meeting.

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Average ontrack handle increased 8 percent from the first five days of last year’s meeting, to $2,649,568, while all-sources handle, including simulcast locations and account wagering, was $12,227,863, an increase of 2.4 percent over the corresponding week in 2011.

“I was very surprised,” track president Joe Harper said. “Our ontrack handle has been strong.”

The increase in handle occurred despite a drop in average field size.

Fields averaged 8.16 starters per race last week compared to 8.49 runners in the corresponding five-day period in 2011.

The ontrack average attendance fell 8.4 percent, to 21,467, despite an opening day record crowd of 47,339 last Wednesday. Harper said attendance figures were affected by the lack of an ontrack giveaway that drew a sizeable crowd opening week of the 2011 meeting as well as weaker attendance than last year the day of an opening-week post-race concert.

“I think those kinds of things made a difference,” Harper said.

Del Mar will race five days a week, Wednesdays through Sundays, through Sept. 5, with racing on Monday, Sept. 3, Labor Day.