08/03/2009 11:00PM

Saratoga handle up a bit so far

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Opening week of the 2009 Saratoga meeting showed a significant gain in attendance and marginal gains in both ontrack and all-sources handle compared with the corresponding period last summer, according to figures released by the New York Racing Association.

Attendance for the opening week of the 2009 meet was up 13.5 percent from a year ago while ontrack handle was up 5 percent and all-sources handle was up 1.1 percent compared with 2008. The first-week totals were accented by Saturday's 11-race card featuring the Grade 1 Diana and Grade 2 Jim Dandy Stakes when a crowd of 33,954 - one of the largest non-Travers/non-giveaway crowds in track history - wagered more than $5.2 million ontrack.

Although Saratoga was plagued by rain on several occasions during opening week, the bad weather paled in comparison with the soggy start here in 2008. Of the 21 races carded for the turf here during this year's opening week, 10 were switched to the main track, whereas last year there were only 11 races on the grass and 13 taken off off during opening week.

Total betting interests are also up, by 9.2 percent per race (to 8.7 starters), thus far in 2009.

"The 2009 Saratoga meet is off to a very promising start both at the windows and on the track," said NYRA's president and CEO, Charles Hayward. "Despite erratic weather and moving the Whitney to the second Saturday of the meet, attendance jumped substantially while ontrack and all-sources handle both increased significantly ahead of all industry trends."