01/07/2005 12:00AM

NYRA figures mixed in '04

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Attendance and ontrack handle were down at New York Racing Association tracks while total handle was up in 2004, according to figures released Friday by the association.

Ontrack handle on NYRA's live races in 2004 was $342,129,176, down 4 percent from $356,441,637 in 2003. The average daily ontrack handle was down 4.8 percent to $1,357,655.

Overall, however, total handle on NYRA's races rose 3.2 percent to $2,684,183,690 from $2,602,103,288. The daily average total handle on NYRA's races was $10,651,523, up 2.3 percent from 2003.

Despite a record Belmont Stakes crowd of 120,139 and two more racing days (252) than in 2003, total attendance was down 8.9 percent to 2,177,429 in 2004. The average daily attendance of 8,641 was down 9.6 percent from 2003.

NYRA's senior vice president, Bill Nader, blamed the steep attendance decline in part to NYRA's inability to offer complimentary passes for most of the year.

"In terms of our per capita wagering, I think we held up pretty well," Nader said. "I think we held our own, given the circumstances we faced in 2004. We had to win back customer confidence.

"We started the year slowly," Nader added. "Overall, from a business standpoint I think it was a pretty good year. The overall handle being up is pretty rewarding. Those are pretty hefty numbers we're going up against.

"We average over $10 million a day 250-plus days a year. That's an extraordinary accomplishment. To be up in 2004 is a positive sign our product did not suffer and was solid throughout the year."