12/03/2004 1:00AM

Suffolk handle increases


Suffolk Downs posted increases in daily average handles and attendance in 2004, the first season the track operated as the lone Thoroughbred track in New England.

Suffolk handled $131,882,718 on its live racing over 119 days from May to November. The average daily handle from all sources on Suffolk races was $1,108,258, a 5.3 percent increase over the 150-day 2003 season.

The increase was driven largely by a 5.9 percent boost in simulcast wagering on Suffolk races, averaging $962,480 per day. Ontrack handle was up 1.3 percent, to $145,778 per day, and average attendance rose 5.5 percent to 3,421 fans per day). Those increases can be attributed at least in part to the return of the Massachusetts Handicap and the presence of the 2003 Kentucky Derby, winner, Funny Cide in that race.

Suffolk raced for all but two and a half months in 2003, when it took over the summer racing dates vacated by Rockingham Park when that track decided to shift to harness racing last year. The Massachusetts Handicap was not run in order to fund the extra racing days. This year there was no racing during the winter months, and a similar schedule is slated for 2005.