06/09/2003 11:00PM

Pimlico handle slips slightly

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Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore concluded its 2003 spring meet on Sunday with a decrease of less than 1 percent in total handle from the same period in 2002. All-sources handle totaled $265.5 million for this year's 48-day meet compared with $266.9 million during the 49-day 2002 meet.

Persistent inclement weather on the East Coast wreaked havoc with the meet, which began April 2. Only 20 of the 82 races (24 percent) scheduled for the turf were actually run on the grass. In the last 17 days of the meet, Pimlico used its turf course only on Preakness Day, May 17.

According to the National Weather Service, May 2003 was the second-wettest May in Baltimore since record-keeping began in 1871, with more than 7 1/2 inches of precipitation.

"Considering the fact we experienced some of the worst spring weather on record, I am relatively pleased with our results, especially since we lost more than three-quarters of our turf racing because of the rain," said Lou Raffetto, chief operating officer of the Maryland Jockey Club.

The Preakness Stakes was under the management of Magna Entertainment Corp., who recently purchased the track, for the first time. Preakness attendance (100,268) was the fourth largest in the race's history and total handle on Preakness Day exceeded $60 million for the third consecutive year.

Ryan Fogelsonger captured his fourth consecutive riding title at a major Maryland track at the Pimlico spring meeting, and Dale Capuano and Michael Gill won the trainer and owner titles. Fogelsonger won 62 races during the 10-week meet, Capuano won 24 races, and Gill won 37.