09/03/2002 12:00AM

Saratoga sets handle record

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The just-completed 36-day meeting at Saratoga Race Course had average daily all-sources handle of $16.3 million, breaking the North American record for average daily handle, which was set at Saratoga last year.

Total handle was $587.3 million, compared with $561.5 million last year, an increase of 4.6 percent. Ontrack handle fell 1 percent to $115.4 million, an average of $3.21 million per card, however, and attendance fell 1 percent to 999,388, an average of 27,660.

Saratoga closed after an 11-race card on Monday. The track hosted 36 racing days last year as well.

Citing a takeout reduction implemented last year that led to record handle at Aqueduct and Belmont, Saratoga officials had anticipated that this year's meet would break the handle record set last year. With two weeks left in the meet, the track was running well ahead of last year's pace.

The numbers held up despite unpredictable, less-than-ideal weather as the meet wound down. Thirty-one races during the meet were taken off of the turf because of the weather, compared to only eight last year.

Additionally, torrential downpours hit Saratoga the night before and day of the Travers Stakes on Aug. 24, forcing dozens of scratches and keeping thousands away from the track on one of the biggest days on the New York racing calendar.

The number of surface changes may have spurred betting on simulcast races at Saratoga, as players looked for other opportunities instead of trying to beat short fields on wet tracks. Betting ontrack on simulcasts was up 19.5 percent this year to $9,708,166, compared with $8,124,093 last year.