07/22/2014 8:09AM

Saratoga ontrack handle, attendance up for opening week

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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Ontrack business was up while overall handle was flat through the first four days of the 2014 Saratoga meet when compared to the same period last year.

Blessed by good weather and buoyed by the first giveaway day of the year on Sunday, total attendance through the first four days was 83,217, an 18.2 percent increase over last year’s figure of 70,390. There was no giveaway on the first Sunday of last year’s meet.

This year’s attendance on giveaway Sundays will be reported differently from past years. A new system that will not count “spinners” - people who buy more than one admission for the purpose of acquiring multiple giveaway items - has been put in place.

Meanwhile, ontrack handle was $14,776,040, an 8.8 percent increase over last year’s figure of $13,583,284. Factored into ontrack handle is money wagered at Aqueduct and Belmont, where Saratoga’s races are simulcast.

All-sources handle through the first four days was $61,376,762, down less than 1 percent from last year’s total of $61,799,199. All sources handle had been up through the first three days, but was down almost $1.4 million on Monday’s nine-race card.

There were 41 races run through the first four days of the meet, the same number as last year. There were 22 turf races, one more than last year’s opening week.

For the first time, Saratoga offered a pick-five wager on the first five races on the card, which through the first four days of the meet averaged $341,666 in handle.

After a dark day Tuesday, racing is scheduled to resume at Saratoga on Wednesday with a 10-race card, including a steeplechase race that will be run at 12:25 p.m. The steeplechase race will not be part of the pick five, which begins with race 2 and goes to post at 1 p.m. The same schedule will be in place Wednesdays and Thursdays throughout the meet.