HRFLA Staff Report
Tampa Bay Downs on Saturday had total handle of $13,200,523--a record for its Festival Preview Day and the third highest in its history.
The two biggest handle days in Tampa Bay Downs history were $14,859,632 on March 10, 2018 and $13,956,020 on March 9, 2019. Both days had twelve races on the track's annual Festival Day, with five stakes races including the Tampa Bay Derby (Grade 2).
The Oldsmar, Fla., track had twelve races on Saturday, topped by the Sam F. Davis (Grade 3) and three other stakes races.
Total handle for the day was 19 percent higher than the $11,092,365 on Feb. 8, 2020, which was the previous Festival Preview record. Conditions were Fast and Firm on Festival Preview days this year and in 2020.
Saturday's big increase in total handle was attributable primarily to Interstate Wagering (ISW), which is up significantly at Tampa Bay Downs compared with its 2019-2020 meet.
A large but not readily determinable part of that increase is from advance deposit wagering (ADW), where bets are made by computers and by telephone.
Interstate Wagering (ISW) on Tampa Bay races was $12,345,356 on Saturday, according to Equibase charts. That is 23 percent higher than $10,048,341 on last year's Festival Preview Day.
Tampa Bay's total handle on Saturday was the day's second highest among U.S. thoroughbred tracks,
Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, Calif., had total handle of $17,571,850 for ten races. That included $5,316,526 on the Pick 6, where there was a mandatory payoff.
Gulfstream Park on Saturday had total handle of $12,205,864 for twelve races. It was a rare day when Tampa Bay had more handle than Gulfstream.
The Festival Preview record comes during a race meet in which Tampa Bay Downs has said that through late last month the average daily total handle of $4.1 million was 15 percent higher than that average at the same point in the 2019-2020 meet.
In a statement on Jan, 29, Tampa Bay Downs Vice President-General Manager Peter Berube said a double-digit gain in simulcast wagering has more than offset a 25 percent decline in on-track wagering,
He said the on-track wagering decline is mostly attributable to the effect of COVID-19 on attendance.
For example, on Festival Preview day last year attendance was 5,360 and on-track wagering was $515,145.
On Saturday, attendance was 3,091 and on-track wagering was $409,286.
From late last March through the end of June, Tampa Bay Downs did not allow spectators on site.
It has been allowing spectators on-site since it opened its meet on Nov. 25. It requires them to wear masks, and has several social distancing and sanitization requirements.
Most other U.S. thoroughbred tracks are racing without spectators or with limits on attendance.
Numerous racing fans who cannot get into their local tracks have shifted their betting to ADWs.
Without providing numbers, Tampa Bay Downs has indicated that ADWs have been a significant part of this season's handle increase.
The pattern of higher handle continued at Tampa Bay on Sunday.
Total handle was $4,657,711 for nine races. That was 10 percent higher than $4,226.295 for nine races on Sunday Feb. 9, 2020.
Attendance was 3,439 and on-track betting was $194,429 on the 2020 date--when conditions were fast and firm.
This past Sunday, attendance was 1,376 and on-track handle was $81,253. Because of overnight rain, the three scheduled-for-turf races were moved to the dirt track.
Many Tampa Bay Downs regulars no doubt stayed home to get ready to watch the telecast of the Super Bowl, in which the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defeated the Kansas City Chiefs 31-9 at Raymond James Stadium.