04/16/2014 11:07AM

Handle down at Sunland Park despite large average field size

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Handle during the 76-day mixed meet at Sunland Park in New Mexico dropped 8.5 percent this year despite the track drawing almost nine horses per race, one of the strongest figures in the country, according to numbers provided by the track.

The average daily handle on the track’s races fell from $797,279 to $729,654. Most of the decline occurred in the out-of-state market, with offtrack handle dropping 9.3 percent from last year’s meet. Both meets had 76 live racing days.

Dustin Dix, the director of racing operations at the track, said out-of-state handle suffered because of bad winter weather on the East Coast and in the Midwest and because of increased competition from other tracks on one of Sunland’s live racing days, Tuesday.

The average purse distribution at Sunland was $251,200 per day, up slightly from last year. Purses at Sunland are provided almost entirely by revenue from a casino attached to the track. Lured by those purses, the average field size was 8.84 horses per race this year, down slightly from 9.03 horses last year.

The track had a record attendance of 18,642 on March 23, when it ran the Sunland Derby, the track’s richest race.

– additional reporting by Mary Rampellini