07/12/2010 11:00PM

Financial picture not completely bleak

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AUBURN, Wash. - Business is down, but not precipitously, as Emerald Downs enters the heart of its summer schedule. A little more than halfway through the 89-day meeting, total betting handle generated on Emerald races, and by Emerald patrons on out-of-state races, is off 7 percent from the corresponding date in 2009, track president Ron Crockett said Monday.

All-source handle on races run at Emerald Downs has declined about 11 percent, Crockett said, attributing most of the loss to a decline in total races run. An average four-day race week at Emerald this season consists of 34 races, down from about 37 races a year ago.

"We're down 6.8 percent through 48 days, which I don't like," Crockett said. "But the way things are going generally in the economy, it seems like a reasonable number."

Hastings, Emerald's nearest neighbor in Vancouver, B.C., recently slashed stakes purses, but Crockett said that won't happen at the suburban Seattle track.

"The purse account is in very good shape," he said. "We will not have to have a purse cut this meet. I just went though the purse account as it sits after 48 days and it is safe."

Nor is there an imminent threat of canceled race cards, Crockett said. Hollywood Park has been forced to cancel three programs during its current meeting, and racing at Pleasanton on the California fair circuit was canceled last Wednesday. Emerald Downs's season ends Sept. 26, and Crockett said the horse population should be sufficient to fill the final 41 dates.

"The horse population is probably off a couple of hundred from a year ago, and we're down about one starter per race," he said. "Hopefully, it holds together. I don't foresee having any cancellations."

Average field size is 7.10 horses, down from 7.43 in 2009, and favorites are winning at a 36-percent clip. Crockett said he has been pleased with the quality of the racing.

"I think we're providing very competitive fields," he said. "You don't see many fields with a couple of 50-1 shots and a nine-to-fiver. On Sunday, for example, you saw 9-1, 8-1, and a few 6-1 shots winning."

Racing resumes Thursday with a seven-race card beginning at 6 p.m. Pacific, and the week wraps Sunday with two restricted $30,000 stakes for 2-year-olds, the Knights Choice for fillies, and the Strong Ruler for colts and geldings.