08/17/2009 11:00PM

Handle and attendance rise at Saratoga

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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Fantastic weather and full fields have helped Saratoga enjoy a strong first half of the 2009 meet, posting gains in attendance, ontrack handle, and all-sources handle compared to the first three weeks of 2008.

Total attendance for the first 18 days of the meet is 439,713, up 8.4 percent from 405,616 in 2008. Daily average attendance is 24,429, compared with 22,534 in 2008.

Ontrack handle at Saratoga is $57,813,286, up 12.3 percent from the $51,486,871 wagered on the first half of last year's meet. Daily average handle is $3,211,849, compared with $2,860,382 in 2008. The ontrack handle is pretty close to the 2007 figure of $59,505,142 at this point. In 2007, Saratoga established an ontrack handle record of $123,018,041.

All-sources handle, which includes money bet on Saratoga's races from simulcast outlets, is $254,161,729, up 4.8 percent from $242,544,415 in 2008. The daily average all-sources handle is $14,120,096, compared to $13,474,690 in 2008. All-sources handle is down $25.1 million compared to 2007, a year in which Saratoga enjoyed its second-biggest all-sources handle.

There have been three more races (180 versus 177) run this year than last year, and total betting interests have increased 11.9 percent from 1,392 to 1,558. There have been 84 turf races run and only 10 taken off, compared to 56 on and 27 off through the first half of 2008.

"The first three weeks have been classic Saratoga; good weather and large competitive fields, and our customers on- and offtrack have responded enthusiastically," NYRA president and CEO Charles Hayward said. "With three weeks in the books, we still have many of the marquee races in front of us."