09/03/2012 6:04PM

Saratoga: 2012 meet posts strong gains in overall handle


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Due largely to more races and a summer of spectacular weather, the 2012 Saratoga meet posted significant increases in overall handle while showing modest gains in ontrack business.

 Total average daily handle for the 40-day meet was $14,708,799, up 9 percent from the 2011 daily average of $13,493,636. Last year, Saratoga conducted only 39 cards, canceling the Aug. 28 card - the day after the Travers - due to Tropical Storm Irene.

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Daily average ontrack handle for this year’s meet was $3,207,356, a 3.3 percent increase over last year’s average daily handle figure of $3,105,171.

Average daily attendance was basically flat, 22,256 in 2012 compared with 22,353 in 2011.

The results are mixed when one considers that a total 19 more races were run at Saratoga in 2012 than in 2011 - 417 to 398. Also, Saratoga offered record purse levels with hopes of attracting larger fields and higher quality racing. The New York Racing Association did limit the size of its maiden 2-year-old sprint races to eight.

Except for two periods of wet weather from July 27-29 and Aug. 10-11, the conditions were virtually spectacular all summer long. The main track was fast and the turf firm for the last 19 days of the meet.

There were 197 races run on the turf and only 27 taken off in 2012, compared with 158 run on the turf with 41 taken off last year. Average betting interests were 8.4 in 2012 compared with 8.2 in 2012.

 On the track, jockey Ramon Dominguez and trainer Todd Pletcher were the two most dominant figures, winning the jockey and trainer titles, respectively.

 Dominguez won a single Saratoga meet record 68 races, eclipsing the mark of 64 set by John Velazquez in 2004. Dominguez, who won two races on Monday, twice equaled Velazquez’s single-day record of six wins on a card, doing it on July 22 and again on Sunday. Both times, Dominguez went 6 for 7 on the day.

“I’m extremely excited about the meet and that was the case even coming into [Sunday] regardless of whether I got the record or not,” Dominguez said Monday. “Yesterday, was really one of those unbelievable days. Just one win after another. Really, what was most rewarding to me was walking back after the last one, all the cheering from all the people. It really got to me, it really made me feel good. Doesn’t happen anywhere else.”

 Dominguez, who won the 2009 title with 45 wins, had five days when he won four or more races and an additional four days when he won at least three on a card.

 Javier Castellano finished as the second-leading rider with 51 wins while Jose Lezcano was third with 35.

 Velazquez and Joel Rosario both enjoyed stellar meets as well. Coming back from a fractured collar bone sustained in June, Velazquez missed the first week of the meet and limited the number of mounts he would ride when he first came back. Still, he won 30 races, including four Grade 1 stakes.

 Rosario, riding his first meet in Saratoga, rode 29 winners and was tied with Velazquez for fourth in the standings entering closing day. Rosario rode at Parx on Monday.

 Pletcher won his ninth Saratoga training title - and third straight - and entered the final day with 35 wins, three shy of his single-meet record 38 set last year. Pletcher’s success came mostly with his 2-year-olds as he won 21 maiden races for juveniles as well as the Grade 2 Adirondack and Monday’s Grade 2 Hopeful.

Chad Brown had a sensational meet winning 29 races.

Mike Repole, who went 0 for 36 here in 2009, won his third consecutive owners’ title. He had 13 wins entering the final card. Michael Dubb finished the meet with 12 wins after his lone starter Monday, Carson Hall finished sixth.

 But the most successful owner was Sheikh Mohammed’s Godolphin Stable which won five graded stakes, including four Grade 1’s. Questing rose to the top of the 3-year-old filly division with victories in the Coaching Club American Oaks and Alabama while Alpha won the Jim Dandy and was part of a historic dead heat in the Travers with Golden Ticket. Godolphin, whose horses are trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, also won the Grade 1 Forego with Emcee.