07/21/2008 11:00PM

First-week handle and attendance slide


DEL MAR, Calif. - Del Mar posted declines in attendance and ontrack and all-sources handle through Sunday, the fifth day of the 43-day meeting, but had an increase in account wagering handle.

According to chief financial officer Michael Ernst, ontrack attendance was down 4.6 percent compared to the start of the 2007 meeting. Del Mar had a record opening-day crowd of 43,459 last Wednesday, but could not sustain that growth through the weekend. Ernst said that track officials believe fewer customers are driving to Del Mar from Los Angeles and Orange counties.

He said all-sources ontrack handle was down 11 percent, with betting on live racing ontrack down 10 percent. Ernest said that ontrack simulcast handle was hurt by the cancellation of racing at Belmont Park on Sunday.

All-sources handle was down 2.8 percent for the first five days. Last year, Del Mar had an all-sources average handle of $13,985,027 for the meet, the second-highest in track history.

Account wagering showed a 12 percent increase from last year, Ernst said. TVG and Youbet are the only national account-wagering operators to be taking bets on Del Mar's races. An experiment allowing all major California tracks to be taken by all account-wagering operators was instituted after last year's Del Mar meet, and it ended before the start of the current meet.

Ernst said "there is no question" that the economy is partly to blame for the drop in handle. Also, he said, some large bettors may have taken a wait-and-see approach to how the Del Mar Polytrack is playing. The track was criticized last year for producing fast times in the morning and slow times in the afternoon. This year, the course has been more uniform after a change in maintenance procedures.

Ernst said he expects handle on incoming simulcasts to increase now that Saratoga is open.