ST. PETERSBURG — Like the proverbial sprinter who stumbled early, Derby Lane couldn't overcome a poor start.
The Republican National Convention in August slowed business at the St. Petersburg greyhound facility, as did the threat of a national fiscal crisis. Though more patrons walked through the track turnstiles in 2012-13, the mutuel windows lacked the same traffic.
Derby Lane ended its 88th season Sunday, a year that featured an attendance increase but a reduction in most monetary categories.
"You have to look at the circumstances," track vice president Richard Winning said. "We had the RNC stuff, and I think a lot of people didn't stick around and went out of town. At the beginning of the year, you had the fiscal cliff hanging out there. There were a lot of 'on-the-edge-(of)-seats' people out there. If it weren't for that little downturn in August, September and October, I think we would have probably been even or flat."
Declines on Derby Lane's product were across the board: all-source handle (7.07 percent at $102,632,564), live on-track handle (1.95 at $20,972,148), intrastate wagering (9.60 at $28,058,070) and interstate wagering (7.6 at $53,602,345). Statistics were based on 414 performances, two fewer than the previous year.
Guest simulcast wagering on non-Derby Lane dogs, thoroughbreds, standardbreds and jai alai was down 1.99 percent at $53,278,917. Attendance was up 1.24 percent at 709,180.
"I think attendance has been great," Winning said. "One of the things that helped us was the Monday matinees. We had some real good Mondays throughout the season, and they'll come back again next year."
Derby Lane's poker room receipts fell 4.69 percent at $8,667,465.
"We didn't have the World Poker Tour tournaments this year, and we focused more on the local games," Winning said.
The track, which is running the six-month meet for Tampa Greyhound Track, is running 14 race performances until Monday when it will revert to 15 race cards. The kennel roster remains at 16 with the addition of former Sanford Orlando kennel owner Donald Burk and the return of James Campbell. Winning said the preservation of the Derby Club Plaza building continues.
"(The final numbers) could have been a lot worse," he said. "I think we've done a fabulous job of trying to curtail some of our downward trends."
Red Oak Racing captured its first kennel championship with 308 victories in the January-to-June meet. Red Oak won 16 races in the final week to beat two-time defending champion Patriot by two. Alex Hall is the kennel manager-trainer for Red Oak owner Robert Lambert.
Patriot sprinter Venus Espinosa was the top dog for the second consecutive time with 22 victories. Best times were clocked by Rj's Sophia M of Cal Holland (30.33 seconds at 550 yards), and Tmc's Roxslide of Pauline O'Donnell (37.10 at 660).