05/03/2010 12:00AM

Tampa average handle up 5 percent


Tampa Bay Downs in Florida had record average daily handle at its meet that concluded Sunday, though wagering figures were also marked by a sharp decline in ontrack wagering and a slight dip in purse distribution, according to figures provided by the track.

Though average all-sources handle jumped 5.2 percent for the 91-day meet to a record $4,186,133, ontrack handle fell 15.4 percent to an average of $217,025. Average daily purse distribution also fell, from $156,659 during last year's 94-day meet to $153,223, or 2.2 percent.

Margo Flynn, a spokesperson for Tampa Bay, said that the track offered the same level of purses in its condition book this year as it did last year. The drop in average was attributed to cheaper races filling more often than races with higher purses, Flynn said, along with the cancellation of a stakes with a purse of $85,000.

Track officials said that heavy amounts of winter rain had a significant impact on ontrack attendance and handle. Average attendance at the track for the meet fell 4.5 percent, to 3,090, according to the track. Until this meet, Tampa Bay has been one of the few tracks over the past several years to buck a national trend of declining attendance.

Average field size was 8.95 horses per race, compared with 9.32 horses per race in 2009. The figure is one of the highest field-size averages in the country for an extended meet. Because of rain, Tampa Bay Downs had to move more races off the turf than it did during last year's meet, and the track ended up carding 205 races on the turf in 2010 compared with 222 in 2009, a 7.7 percent drop.

- Matt Hegarty