01/05/2007 12:00AM

Handle, attendance drop


The 2006-07 Tropical at Calder meeting concluded Tuesday with declines in both average ontrack wagering and attendance and the emergence of a promising new star, apprentice jockey Jermaine Bridgmohan. The 60-day meeting began on Oct. 16.

Ontrack handle was off nearly 10 percent from the previous year, averaging $362,211 compared with $400,886 in 2005-06. Ontrack attendance dropped almost 7 percent, from 4,122 to 3,843 daily.

The total combined handle - which includes ontrack, intertrack and interstate wagering on Calder's live racing program - averaged $3.67 million each day, compared with an average of $3.97 million a year ago, a drop of 7.6 percent. There were five fewer racing days last year.

Track officials said unseasonably rainy weather during the Tropical meet, which forced more than a quarter of the scheduled turf races to be switched to the main track, was in large part responsible for the declines in handle. In addition, almost 21 percent of all races at the meet were decided over a wet main track or less-than-firm grass course, leading to a decrease in average field size from 7.90 to 7.35 in 2006-07.

"It is frustrating to have so many races come off the grass because that typically results in more scratches," said Calder's president, Ken Dunn. "We are also facing significant in-market competition from other sports, gaming, and entertainment facilities."

Bridgmohan, who did not begin his riding career until July, won a record 110 races during the Tropical meet, easily taking the jockey title from Manoel Cruz, who won 89. Bridgmohan will be sidelined indefinitely after suffering numerous injuries in a riding mishap on opening day at Gulfstream Park.

Kirk Ziadie edged out Bill White, 25-24, to capture his first Tropical training title, while Dan Hurtak was the meet's leading owners with 10 victories, one more than Steve Dwoskin and the Olympia Stable.

Take D' Tour and Soldier's Dancer each won a pair of stakes during the meet, with Safari Queen and Devil's Preacher winning the biggest events of the session, the Grade 2 La Prevoyante and Grade 2 W.L. McKnight handicaps, both of which had to be switched from the turf to a sloppy main track.