05/11/2006 12:00AM

Tampa, Beulah handle up


Tampa Bay Downs registered its fourth straight year of significant handle and purse growth during its recently concluded 2005-2006 racing meet, according to statistics released by the Florida track on Thursday.

A relatively small track located in Oldsmar, Tampa Bay has become an anomaly on the modern racing landscape by consistently improving its year-over-year handle figures, many times by double-digit percentages. During the recently concluded 94-day meet, the track's all-sources average handle was up 14.37 percent, to $3.9 million a day, with out-of-state handle increasing 16.2 percent, according to the track's figures. Average daily purse distribution was up 9.3 percent to $158,501. All of those figures are records for the track.

Tampa has consistently attracted more gamblers to its product over the last four years by selling its signal to more out-of-state outlets, promoting its races through account-wagering operations - the track's signal was on Television Games Network for the first time this year -- and focusing on its turf racing. Somewhat paradoxically, Tampa has also refused to sell its signal to many offshore rebate shops over the past three years because of concerns over how much customers of the shops win, yet handle has still grown.

Perhaps most important to its handle growth, Tampa posted one of the highest field-size averages in the country at 9.57 horses per race this year, up from 9.34 last year.

"It's a signature we try to place on our meet, large field sizes," said Peter Berube, the track's general manager. "The racing office really did an outstanding job. They had a plan and they executed it."

On-track handle grew 6.9 percent to an average of $321,202 a day, although average on-track attendance declined marginally, from 3,513 customers during the preceding meet to 3,501 a day at the most recent meet. Berube said that Tampa Bay has focused its marketing efforts on the affluent communities surrounding the track, noting that on-track bets pruduce seven times the revenue of out-of-state wagers.

Leading jockey at the meet was 21-year-old Jose Lezcano, with 92 wins from 333 mounts. The leading trainer was Kirk Ziadie, with 34 wins from 108 starts. It was Ziadie's third trainer's title at Tampa Bay.


Average daily all-sources handle during Beulah Park's recently concluded race meet reached an all-time high of $1,506,445, according to figures released by the Ohio track on Thursday. Total betting on the track's races was $134,065,992, a 34 percent increase over last year?s all-sources wagering total of $84,346,729.