01/16/2010 12:00AM

NYRA business down for 2009

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The New York Racing Association suffered a 10.24 percent decline in total handle on its races in 2009, slightly above the 9.88 percent drop in total handle industry-wide for the year.

Total handle on races at NYRA's three tracks - Aqueduct, Belmont and Saratoga - was about $2.2 billion on 250 cards of racing, compared with just below $2.5 billion on 249 cards conducted in 2008. Ontrack handle on NYRA races in 2009 was $249,789,824, a 9 percent decline from the $274,646,554 wagered in 2008.

According to figures released by NYRA, industry-wide handle dropped to $12.3 billion in 2009 compared with $13.7 billion in 2008. Money wagered on NYRA's races made up 18 percent of the total racing industry handle in 2009.

Total attendance at NYRA tracks in 2009 dropped 4.24 percent, from 1,735,715 in 2008 to 1,662,154 in 2009.

NYRA's business was not helped by a less-than-stellar Belmont Stakes Day in 2009. Without a Triple Crown at stake, attendance on Belmont Day was 52,861, down 44 percent compared to 2008 when 94,476 witnessed Big Brown's failed Triple Crown attempt. Total handle on the Belmont card was down 10.2 percent to $89.7 million while ontrack handle was down 31.8 percent that day to $9.02 million.

Business on Travers Day at Saratoga was hurt by rainy weather that kept the crowd to 34,221, the lowest in 30 years. Total handle was down 18 percent on Travers Day.

Rain also wreaked havoc with NYRA's turf racing in 2009, forcing 144 races to be taken off the turf between May and October.