08/15/2011 1:11PM

Del Mar's handle down 6 percent so far this season

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DEL MAR, Calif. – All-sources handle at Del Mar is down an average of 6 percent through Sunday compared with same point of the 2010 season, a figure that may be difficult to reverse before the season ends, track president Joe Harper said on Monday.

Del Mar has run 20 days of its 37-day meeting, which runs through Sept. 7.

Handle, including ontrack, offtrack, and account wagering sources has averaged $11,221,976, lower than 2010 average of $11,925,681 at the same point last year. Average ontrack handle is down 6 percent, from $2,220,715 in 2010 to $2,080,664 this year.

Harper said all-sources handle figures are likely to remain close to current levels through the end of the meeting, with improvement dependent on the number of pick six carryovers. Last year, for the entire meeting there were 13 days with pick six carryovers, including a massive triple carryover on Labor Day weekend. Through Sunday, there have been five days with a pick six carryover.

“I’m not sure there is that much you can do for your handle other than good betting races or carryovers,” he said. “I don’t really see a lot of natural increases. We’re going against some pretty big days on Labor Day weekend. Without that, it’s tough.”

The drop in handle has occurred largely in the last two weeks. Through July 31, after the first two weeks of the meeting, all-sources handle was down less than 1 percent.

Harper said the massive swings on the stock market in recent weeks could be a factor in the decline in handle.

“The handle started dropping when that happened,” he said. “I don’t know whether there is any correlation.”

Attendance figures have been more encouraging. Through Sunday, average ontrack attendance was 19,430, a gain of 1.3 percent over 19,180 at the same point in 2010.

Through Sunday, field sizes were essentially equal to last year, with 8.2 runners per races this year compared with 8.17 runners per race at the same point last year.

In an effort to increase field sizes and encourage shippers, Del Mar enacted a promotion this year to attract overnight horses from other circuits, paying a 20 percent bonus for initial purse money earned in overnight races to the owners of horses who had not raced in California in the last six months.

Approximately 50 horses would have fit the program had it been in effect for the 2010 meeting, according to director of racing Tom Robbins. Through Sunday, 50 of the 1,444 starters at the meeting had qualified for the bonus.