09/15/2004 12:00AM

Fairmount Park track report


COLLINSVILLE, Ill. - Attendance for Fairmount Park's 2004 meet, which comes to an end Saturday, is projected to exceed last year's total by almost 10 percent, according to Kevin Kious, an Illinois state auditor assigned to monitor Fairmount's financials. At the same time, however, the average daily live handle is expected to drop slightly compared to last year, according to numbers released by Kious last week.

Greg Smith, the track's advertising and marketing director, says he doesn't particularly care whether the newcomers attending the races flock to the betting windows. "We're not looking for people to place $10, $20, or $30 bets," said Smith. "In fact, I'd prefer they didn't. What you have to do is create a trial where somebody comes once, has a good time, and wants to do it again. In various parts of the track, we're looking to attract a completely different audience."

Smith acknowledges that the track has been stung by the recent proliferation of riverboat casinos in the area, but he sees his product as more directly positioned against major league sports.

"When the [baseball's St. Louis] Cardinals are out of town," said Smith, "we do an extra 30 percent in business."

While local horsemen express appreciation for the larger crowds, it's yet to have an impact on their bottom line - which is solely dependent upon handle, not ancillary revenues.

The young folks who are coming to the track "don't have a lot of disposable income yet," said Lanny Brooks, a Collinsville-based horse trainer who serves as executive director of the Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association at Fairmount. "The other thing is, they don't know how to bet yet. They get intimidated; they're calling the horse by name instead of number [at the betting windows]."

Consequently, says Brooks, "Our live handle is nowhere near commensurate with our attendance. The horsemen are ready and willing to put out a better product. We just need the money to run for."

* Jockey Cindy Medina will retire Saturday night. She began her career in 1986 at Mountaineer Park before switching headquarters to Fairmount in 1996. Through Wednesday Medina had 1,111 career victories.

* The Leroy Hellman-trained Denoun N Deverb ($22.20) won her maiden in the $25,000 Shuvee Stakes for 2-year-old fillies going six furlongs at Fairmount Park on Tuesday afternoon. Out-of-town favorites Tuff Justice and Luckie May Breeze were nowhere to be found as 22-1 underdog Stef's Inheritance finished second and Quarter Irish (6-1) third to round out handsome $405 exacta and $6,333 trifecta payouts.