Despite encouraging turnout in the opening weeks of the meet, attendance and handle at the Saratoga Race Course decline this year when compared to 2008's figures.
Attendance was down 2.1 percent, on-track handle dropped 2.2 percent and all-sources handle decreased by 1.7 percent. The final attendance total when the track closed on Monday, Sept. 7, was 854,413. Final on-track handle stood at $112,005,880.
New York Racing Association officials were quick to note that Saratoga's performance was well above industry trends during the economic downturn, and that the decline was less than the five to ten percent drop that was anticipated. Equibase, the industry's statistics-gathering organization, reported an 11.1 percent decline in wagering nationwide so far this year.
By any measure, the 2009 Saratoga meet was an overwhelming success, said NYRA President and CEO Charles Hayward in a statemtn. "Performances on the track were led by a history-making Woodward victory by Rachel Alexandra, and attendance and total wagering far exceeded our expectations. We thank our customers, our owners, trainers, and jockeys, and our employees for their enthusiasm and participation."
The slumping attendance numbers late in the season"including a lackluster turnout for a rain-drenched Shadwell Travers"were somewhat offset by the running of Rachel Alexandra in the Woodward Stakes. Attendance totaled 31,171 that day.
Overall, average betting interests for the meet increased by 3.1 percent to 8.38, and total betting interests increased 4.8 percent to 3,058.