09/05/2005 12:00AM

Saratoga handle declines

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Saratoga Race Course concluded its 36-day meeting on Monday with its total handle down more than 5 percent from the track's 2004 meet. Although attendance fell more than 3 percent, ontrack handle rose, though less than a quarter of 1 percent from last year's 36-day meet.

The ontrack handle increase this year, by 0.23 percent, saw a daily average of $3,250,009, up from 3,242,486 in 2004. The total daily average handle was $14,946,720, down 5.47 percent from $15,810,918 in 2004.

Average attendance declined 3.17 percent to 25,914 daily, from 26,762 last year

The average field size declined 5.44 percent, from 8.57 to 8.10 runners per race. The number of betting interests declined 5.9 percent since last year, from a daily average of 80 in 2005 to 75.2 this year.

Saratoga ran 121 turf races at this meet, 26 more than last year.

NYRA instituted race-day security barns, where horses needed to be housed six hours before their races, at Belmont Park earlier this year, and continued the practice at Saratoga. The barns were a controversial issue as horsemen criticized the size of the stalls, their floor coverings, and ventilation.

Charles Hayward, president of the New York Racing Association, which operates the track, said that "the most disappointing thing was the lack of planning for security barns. However, measures have been taken, and further measures will be discussed, to better implement the system.

Todd Pletcher won the training title, with 22 wins, for the fourth straight Saratoga season. Edgar Prado captured the riding title with 44 wins.