08/11/2008 12:00AM

Saratoga handle down sharply


Another daylong deluge Monday was the perfect backdrop for the final card of the first half of Saratoga's 140th meet.

With rain the theme of the first 18 days of racing, Saratoga has experienced double-digit declines in attendance, ontrack handle, and all-sources handle compared with this point of last year's record-setting meet.

Attendance through the first 18 days this year totaled 405,616, down 18.9 percent compared with the 500,280 fans who attended the first 18 cards last year. This year's figure included the announced crowd of 12,928 on Friday, a card that was scrapped after the second race because of unsafe track conditions.

Total ontrack handle was $51,486,871, down 13.5 percent when compared with the $59,505,141 wagered in 2007.

Total all-sources handle was $242,452,767, down 13.2 percent when compared to the $279,248,931 wagered through the first 18 cards in 2007.

Despite the loss of the final eight races from last Friday's card, there have been 176 races run this meet, compared with 172 in 2007. Betting interests, however, are down significantly from 1,499 last year to 1,392 this year. There have been 24 turf races taken off the turf this summer, compared to two at this point last year.

"Although the forecast calls for more unsettled conditions through Thursday of this week, the weekend looks promising," said NYRA's president and CEO Charles Hayward.