ST. PETERSBURG — As torrential rain passed over Derby Lane on Wednesday, Vey Weaver talked about weathering the storm.
But his focus wasn't on the wet conditions.
With Derby Lane's first live year-round season of greyhound racing winding down, the track president and chairman of the board hopes the downward trend in business the past three months isn't prolonged.
The meet concludes Monday night. Derby Lane will show gains in all-source handle on its product but declines in attendance and handle on guest simulcasts (non-Derby Lane greyhounds, thoroughbreds, standardbreds and jai alai).
"The first nine months of the year were great," Weaver said. "We did really well, did what our expectations were. But in the last quarter is where we've really seen the downturn occur. We just need to weather this storm. Things don't look good in the economy, and that's just a fact. Business is cyclical. We will come out of it somewhere down the road. We just don't know when."
In statistics through June 21, 734,203 patrons visited since the season began July 1, 2007, down about 9.97 percent from 815,550 the previous year. Weaver said a decline of about 80,000 came in April, May and June alone. Guest simulcast wagering of $86,666,042 is off by 5.63 percent.
With year-round racing supplanting the previous six-month meet, increased wagering on the track's product is ensured. All-source handle of $142,274,283 is up 64.17 percent, including $31,201,139 on live-on track wagering (36.72 percent gain), $45,294,849 on intrastate betting (71.08 rise) and $65,778,295 on interstate wagering (76.04 gain). Poker room gross receipts will be similar to last year's total of $7,096,991, despite Gov. Charlie Crist signing a pact with the Seminole Tribe of Florida allowing Las Vegas-style slot machines, blackjack and baccarat in seven Indian casinos in the state.
"The Legislature just really doesn't seem to care whether we stay in business or not, and that's very sad to me," Weaver said. "We have been good corporate, tax-paying citizens for over 80 years in this state, (and) to be disrespected the way we are, it just really hurts our feelings as a company."
Derby Lane will continue live year-round racing. The first six months of its 2008-09 meet, which begins Tuesday, will be run with Tampa Greyhound Track's permit. Tampa ended live racing in August, and Derby Lane is assisting it by providing enough performances for it to retain a racing permit as required by Florida statute. Derby Lane's permit will take effect Jan. 1.
More Derby lane: The St. Petersburg Derby is Race 10 at 10:07 tonight, with the consolation final in Race 8 at 9:29. La Rosa Enterprises' Red Dirt Road will be honored after Race 6 as the meet win leader.
Trainer blames barn for test: Big Brown trainer Rick Dutrow is appealing his 15-day suspension after his horse Salute the Count had more than the limit of a drug that enables a horse to breathe easier. "It's just a mistake in the barn that happened," he said.
Thoroughbreds: Heatseeker, the 7-5 morning line favorite for the $750,000 Hollywood Gold Cup in California, is out of the race today because of a left ankle injury. … Steve Asmussen, the top trainer at Lone Star Park in Texas, is facing a possible suspension after Timber Tick tested positive for the local anesthetic lidocaine.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.