11/12/2007 12:00AM

Suffolk meet's numbers mixed

EmailSuffolk Downs posted increases in attendance and ontrack handle on its 2007 meet, although the all-sources average handle declined marginally.

The 100-day stand that ended Saturday saw a 22 percent gain in average attendance, topped by 19,191 Sept. 22 for the return of the Massachusetts Handicap after a two-year hiatus.

That fueled a 14 percent increase in the average daily handle on live Suffolk racing by ontrack fans. Average daily handle from all sources dipped a percentage point from the 103-day meet in 2006. Bettors put $90.38 million into Suffolk pools in 2007, down $3.6 million from last year.

Richard Fields, who purchased a controlling interest in the East Boston, Mass., track before the the meet, increased purses by 12 percent, largely through the return of the $500,000 Mass Cap and $190,000 in other stakes. He also hired a new management team and spent thousands on plant upgrades including a picnic area and a gift shop.

"We are encouraged by the increases in attendance and handle, as they reflect a reversal of recent trends," said Fields. "We made a number of improvements this year to enhance the overall customer experience and it has made a difference."