04/25/2006 12:00AM

Ontrack handle up 18 percent over '05


Average ontrack betting on races at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale, Fla., during the track's recently concluded 2006 meet was up 18 percent compared to last year's meet, Gulfstream officials said Tuesday.

The ontrack figure, which is an approximation, was the only wagering figure available on Tuesday, aside from handle at Florida intertrack sites on Gulfstream's races. Magna Entertainment Corp., Gulfstream's parent company, is reviewing the track's out-of-state handle figures and the final numbers will not be available for several weeks, according to Gulfstream president Scott Savin.

This year's 87-day meet at Gulfstream was the first since Magna replaced the track's grandstand with a new, $120 million structure. Last year, Gulfstream used giant tents to accommodate the public during its popular winter meet. The track did not release ontrack handle figures last year.

Savin said that bettors wagered approximately $54.85 million last year at Gulfstream on the track's races during an 86-day meet. This year, he said, ontrack betting was approximately $65.5 million. Savin noted that because of construction delays, parts of the grandstand did not open to the public until well into this year's meet.

"We're thrilled, especially considering that we had limited areas where we could accommodate people," Savin said.

Magna's review of the all-sources handle figures includes an accounting for "currency fluctuations for non-merged pools," Savin said. Non-merged pools are usually from foreign sites that do not commingle their wagers into the host track's pools, and the amounts are typically a small fraction of the total all-sources handle.

Kent Stirling, the executive director of the Florida Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, said that according to his calculations, out-of-state handle for the entire meet was running "a couple of percentage points" below last year's figures through 70 days of the meet.

"But they're up everywhere else, in ontrack and in intertrack wagering," Stirling said.