06/11/2013 2:45PM

Pimlico average handle declines during longer meet


With seven more live race days during the spring meet compared to last year, total handle rose and average handle declined during the recently completed 36-day meet at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore.

Pimlico and its horsemen agreed to add dates to the spring meet as part of a long-term plan to run at least 180 days a year at Pimlico and its sister track, Laurel Park, for the next 10 years, in part to take advantage of millions of dollars flowing to purses from casinos in the state. As a result, total handle on Pimlico’s races during the meet jumped 8.4 percent to $153.9 million, while average handle dropped 12.7 percent, from $4.90 million last year to $4.28 million this year.

Average field size also fell, by 5 percent, from 8 horses per race last year to 7.6 horses this year, according to figures provided by the Maryland Jockey Club, the operator of Pimlico and Laurel. Over the past several years, many racetracks have tried to cut racing dates from their live schedules because of horse shortages.

The handle total during Pimlico’s spring meet is heavily influenced by a single day of racing, the third Saturday in May, when the track holds the Preakness Stakes, the second leg of the Triple Crown. The 13-race Preakness card this year had total handle of $82 million, more than half of the total handle for the entire 36-day meet.

Subtracting out the Preakness card, Pimlico had average handle of $2.05 million on the other 35 live race cards.