08/12/2008 11:00PM

Del Mar has handle slip

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Attendance at the current Del Mar meeting is even with last year as of Sunday's 23nd day of the 43-day meeting, but handle figures have not kept pace amidst a shaky economy, according to the track's executive vice-president, Craig Fravel.

Fravel said on Wednesday that ontrack attendance was up less than 1 percent, but that all-sources handle, including ontrack and offtrack sources and account wagering, was down 5 percent from the comparable period in 2007.

Ontrack handle had fallen 9 percent, Fravel said. As a result of weaker handle, the track cut purses by 3.5 percent earlier this month for the final three weeks of the meeting, beginning with Wednesday's program. The purses of five stakes were cut as well.

"We're pleased that attendance is relatively steady," Fravel said. "It's nice that people are still coming."

Fravel said the more heavily promoted days have done well, while some weekdays have shown weakness. For example, the ontrack crowd last Saturday reached 39,679, the second-highest of the meeting. The audience was higher than normal for a Saturday because of a Ziggy Marley concert on the infield after the races.

"I think people are looking for bargains in this economy," he said.

The meeting ends on Sept. 3, but the track has two major weekends in coming weeks - the Pacific Classic program on Aug. 24 and Labor Day weekend. Fravel said he expects the handle figures to remain steady through the end of the meeting. The figures could improve if there are several pick six carryovers, he said.

"The handles gets to be carryover-driven," Fravel said.