08/22/2014 2:24PM

Hopes high for big business on Pacific Classic Day


DEL MAR, Calif. – Del Mar is expected to draw its second-biggest crowd of the season for Sunday’s Pacific Classic program, an audience that could rival the 42,021 who attended opening day July 17.

The track needs a big audience to reverse business declines at the meeting. Through Aug. 17, the 24th day of the 36-day meeting, average attendance was 17,226, a decline of 8 percent from 2013.

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The average ontrack handle was $2,181,961, a decline of 13.9 percent, while the average all-sources handle, including satellite and account wagering, was $11,973,471, down 7.7 percent.

In 2013, the Pacific Classic program drew a crowd of 29,319.

Track president Joe Harper has staffed for a bumper crowd for Sunday’s 11-race program, which begins at 1 p.m. Pacific.

“I’m putting everyone to work I can find,” he said.

Last year’s season showed gains in ontrack and average all-sources handle from 2012.

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“Last year was tremendous, so it’s hard to compare,” Harper said. “Last year, we had all the large bettors in place for the whole meet. They’re here now, but they weren’t here for the first part.”

The decline in business comes when wagering in the state of California has slowed compared with earlier this year.

Betting at all tracks in the state is up less than 1 percent, with daytime racing up 2.97 percent and night racing down 12 percent for the year, Rick Baedeker, the executive director of the California Horse Racing Board, announced Thursday.

He said July was not a good month, with afternoon racing down 13 percent from July 2013 and the night signals down 11 percent.