07/18/2013 8:38AM

Del Mar opening-day attendance slips, business up

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DEL MAR, Calif. - Del Mar drew an opening-day ontrack crowd of 43,030 on Wednesday, a decline of 9 percent over the record 47,339 that attended opening day in 2012.

Wednesday’s program was the first time that ontrack attendance on opening day  had fallen since 2004.

[DEL MAR 2013: Complete meet coverage, schedule, race replays]

In 2003, the track reported an ontrack crowd of 40,682 on opening day, a figure that dropped to 39,346 in 2004. The ontrack audience rose annually for eight years, beginning in 2005.

Although the crowd was smaller, handle rose from last year.

Ontrack handle on the 10-race card grew by 2.5 percent, from $4,288,057 in 2012 to $4,395,594 this year. All-sources handle, including simulcasting and account-wagering sources, rose by 3.5 percent, from $14,176,153 last year to $14,682,671, track officials said.

Despite the drop in attendance on Wednesday, the place was still packed. There were lengthy lines to bet, and buy food or drink. The areas surrounding the paddock and the track apron were full of racegoers within an hour of the 2 p.m. first post.

Track president Joe Harper said that the smaller crowd made opening day easier from a logistical point of view.

“Anytime you get more than 40,000, you can’t complain,” he said. “It was an easier opening day. We purposefully limited a lot of ticket sales in the turf club and it probably paid off.

“We will be up in food and beverage sales. More people could get to the bars.

“It was a manageable day as far as an opening day was concerned.”

Harper said there is a possibility that frequent fans chose to avoid the crowd on opening day.

“I think the big crowds we were getting were having a negative effect on our regular customers,” he said. “You couldn’t move around.”

scott More than 1 year ago
Where are all the people with the "game is dead/dying" rhetoric?
W.H. Anderson More than 1 year ago
Everything great about opening day at Del Mar, except get rid of Mike Joyce and company in the paddock. He is sooooo bad !!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Gomez off all mounts today at Dmr. See ya Go Go!! Happy trails to you.
John Stevelberg More than 1 year ago
Love the Del Mar meet, but actually go on the weekdays to really enjoy everything about Del Mar.
Csun More than 1 year ago
Pretty sure that Todd Shrupp's plea to millions of TVG viewers to stay home and watch the on-air programming was effective. Betfair was looking for a huge ratings and handle spike and I'd have to think that they got it.
mikey More than 1 year ago
Worth going to track not to listen to that idot all day.How they keep that crew is something that makes no sense.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Amen to that !!!!
Bob Fasching More than 1 year ago
I went to opening day once and the boxes in front of me were all full and I'm not sure I saw one of those people go to the windows all day!!! It's still a great day and a great tradition on the so cal racing calendar. I wonder what fall opening day 2014 is going to be like?????
Michelle Tucker More than 1 year ago
Joe Harper is absolutely correct. I am a regular customer during the Del Mar meet but I always avoid Opening Day because it's a crowded nightmare. It's much easier to do early bird wagering or use an OTB facility on the first day.
Mortimer Post More than 1 year ago
Correct...legit horseplayers don't attend Opening Day.