11/13/2006 12:00AM

Numbers see sharp decline

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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - A horse shortage, triggered by an outbreak of equine herpesvirus at Monmouth Park, badly hurt business at the Meadowlands Racetrack meet that concluded Saturday night.

Average ontrack handle at the 33-day meet was $265,424, a 28 percent plunge from 2005. Combined handle, including all wagers on Meadowlands races from simulcast and offtrack locations, fell 12 percent, to $1.64 million. Attendance averaged 3,298 per card, a decline of 19opercent from 2005.

"The final numbers clearly show the impact of the quarantine that occurred in mid-October and continued throughout the remainder of the meet," said Dennis Dowd, senior executive vice president for the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, which owns and operates the track. "It had a devastating impact on field size and the number of races we could card each race date."

The track staggered through the meet, struggling to fill races in the face of a quarantine that barred horses from neighboring states. The Meadowlands has traditionally been heavily dependent on shippers from New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Maryland to supplement the runners stabled at Monmouth Park. When the herpes outbreak occurred, the Meadowlands could draw only on horses already stabled in New Jersey.

The result: seven- and eight-race cards where the Big M usually ran nine or 10. The average number of races per card fell from 9.64 last year to 8.88 in 2006.

"This meet has been snakebitten the past few years," said Dowd. "Last year severe floods forced a one-week cancellation in the races, and now the virus this year. We will be regrouping to present a 41-day meet in 2007."

On the racing front, Jose Lezcano took his first Meadowlands riding title. He had 46 wins, 11 more than the runner-up, Rajiv Maragh. Joe Bravo, nine-time Meadowlands champion, was third with 34.

"I'm very happy to have done this," said Lezcano. "I hope that everything continues to go well for me. From here, I'll be going to Gulfstream and back to Monmouth next year."

Jason Servis topped the trainer standings for a second straight year. He had 20 wins, while Pat Farro was second with 11.EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - A horse shortage, triggered by an outbreak of equine herpesvirus at Monmouth Park, badly hurt business at the Meadowlands Racetrack meet that concluded Saturday night.

Average ontrack handle at the 33-day meet was $265,424, a 28 percent plunge from 2005. Combined handle, including all wagers on Meadowlands races from simulcast and offtrack locations, fell 12 percent, to $1.64 million. Attendance averaged 3,298 per card, a decline of 19opercent from 2005.

"The final numbers clearly show the impact of the quarantine that occurred in mid-October and continued throughout the remainder of the meet," said Dennis Dowd, senior executive vice president for the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, which owns and operates the track. "It had a devastating impact on field size and the number of races we could card each race date."

The track staggered through the meet, struggling to fill races in the face of a quarantine that barred horses from neighboring states. The Meadowlands has traditionally been heavily dependent on shippers from New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Maryland to supplement the runners stabled at Monmouth Park. When the herpes outbreak occurred, the Meadowlands could draw only on horses already stabled in New Jersey.

The result: seven- and eight-race cards where the Big M usually ran nine or 10. The average number of races per card fell from 9.64 last year to 8.88 in 2006.

"This meet has been snakebitten the past few years," said Dowd. "Last year severe floods forced a one-week cancellation in the races, and now the virus this year. We will be regrouping to present a 41-day meet in 2007."

On the racing front, Jose Lezcano took his first Meadowlands riding title. He had 46 wins, 11 more than the runner-up, Rajiv Maragh. Joe Bravo, nine-time Meadowlands champion, was third with 34.

"I'm very happy to have done this," said Lezcano. "I hope that everything continues to go well for me. From here, I'll be going to Gulfstream and back to Monmouth next year."

Jason Servis topped the trainer standings for a second straight year. He had 20 wins, while Pat Farro was second with 11.