The New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA) posted a 2.3 percent average daily total handle gain for 2013. The gain follows a 2012 season during which NYRA posted sizable gains in all handle categories.
Average daily handle wagered on races at NYRA's three racetracks – Aqueduct Racetrack, Belmont Park and Saratoga Race Course – increased 2.3 percent in 2013 to $9,198,298, up from $8,990,691 in 2012. For the year, NYRA hosted 239 racing days, six fewer than in 2012, and fewer than any of the preceding four years.
Total on-track handle on NYRA races in 2013 was $367,022,646, the second highest such total over the last five years. By comparison, in 2012 when NYRA ran 245 days, on-track handle was $381,114,842. Total handle on NYRA races from all sources was $2,198,393,408, the third highest total during the past five years. Gross total handle was down slightly from $2,202,719,485 in 2012. Total attendance was 1,666,396, also the third highest tally during the past five years. In 2012, attendance was 1,790,803 for the 245 days. Year-over-year totals in 2013 were negatively affected by the reduction in racing days, and the lack of a dual Kentucky Derby-Preakness winner (as existed in 2012 with I'll Have Another), which led to a drop of more than 38,000 in Belmont Stakes Day attendance, a $3.1 million decline in the day's on-track handle on Belmont Park races, and a $7.8 million decrease in the day's total handle.
Wagering on NYRA races again accounted for more than 20 percent of all monies bet on thoroughbred racing in the U.S. According to Equibase, handle on all races in the United States rose 0.06 percent to $10.88 billion in 2013 from $10.87 billion in 2012.
NYRA enjoyed significant gains on many of the circuit's biggest days in 2013. Wood Memorial Day – which featured a button giveaway highlighting the showdown between the top 3-year-olds Verrazano and Vyjack, a dedicated Wood Memorial section on NYRA.com and enhanced print and radio advertising – resulted in the largest on-track handle ($3,258,633) at Aqueduct in nearly 20 years and what is believed to be the largest total handle day ($21,601,616) in Wood Memorial history.
Metropolitan Mile Handicap day on Memorial Day at Belmont, featuring a $500,000 All Graded Stakes Pick 4 and a popular weekend food truck festival, brought out the highest Met Mile Day crowd (11,664) since 2008, the highest on-track handle for the day ($2,678,317) since 2002, and the largest total Met Mile Day handle ($16,191,654) since 2007.
The historic Whitney Handicap Day, celebrating the precise 150th anniversary of racing's debut in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. complete with a $15,000 wager promotion courtesy of Marylou Whitney and John Hendrickson, a commemorative poster giveaway and a giant birthday cake from TV's Cake Boss, resulted in the largest Whitney day total handle ($25,558,023) since 2007.
On Empire Showcase Day presented by The Fund at Belmont, the top New York breds in training – as well as more than 30 New York State food and crafts vendors – showed up and set the stage for the annual event's highest on-track handle ($2,287,831) since 2002 and highest total handle ($13,424,800) since 2008.
Business was similarly brisk on Cigar Mile Handicap Day at the Big A during Thanksgiving weekend when an array of racing stars, including Cigar Mile winner Flat Out, set the stage for the largest Cigar Mile day on-track handle ($1,829,136) since 1998 and the highest total handle ($12,772,690) for the day since 2004.
“The men and women of The New York Racing Association worked hard to present a year filled with many memorable moments,” said NYRA CEO and President Chris Kay. “Our average daily handle increase is an encouraging sign in a year that followed one with larger-than-normal gains. By enhancing our guest experience for those who attend our races, by improving the viewing experience for those watching from afar, and by providing a better Advance Deposit Wagering platform, we will build on 2013 and work toward our goals of a prosperous 2014 and a successful reprivatization in 2015.”
Other highlights throughout 2013 included NYRA's inaugural Spring Media Day, when non-racing media enjoyed a day at Belmont Park to learn what thoroughbred racing is all about; national television coverage of NYRA racing once again by NBC Sports on Wood Memorial Day, Belmont Stakes Day, and via the “Summer at Saratoga” series; a Saratoga meeting that saw per capita food and beverage sales increase by 12 percent over 2012 levels and group sales revenues improve by 18 percent, and a highly prosperous Belmont Park fall meet that produced double-digit, year-over-year increases in attendance and on-track handle, and a 9.8 percent jump in total handle.
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