OLDSMAR — Up, up and away.
That seemed to reflect the 2012-13 meet at Tampa Bay Downs.
Attendance was up. All-source handle was up. Interstate wagering — money bet away from Florida — was up, helping the Oldsmar thoroughbred track finish with gains for its 87th season of thoroughbred racing.
The meet was historic with 57 days separating the Downs traditional closing card May 5 and its official finale June 30. The unprecedented scheduling enabled the facility to be considered a year-round racing oval by the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, allowing it to be a host track. Benefits include control of its simulcast menu and higher purses. Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach made a similar move.
The Downs started its 2013-14 campaign with an eight-race card July 1, but no live racing is expected again until Dec. 7.
Highlighted by two programs with more than 10,000 patrons (10,476 on Festival Day, March 9; and 10,311 on Kentucky Derby simulcast day, May 4), attendance for the 92-day meet increased 2.9 percent at 297,959 (3,239 daily average). All-source handle on the Downs product jumped 1.7 percent at $364,411,550 ($3,960,995), sparked by a $10,291,828 total March 9. The driving force was interstate betting, which climbed 3.3 percent at $318,943,067 ($3,466,772).
Numbers are slightly skewed since the Downs limited wagering on the June 30 card to on-track fans only. Averages for the first 91 days were attendance, 3,259; all-source handle, $4,003,603; and interstate wagering, $3,504,869.
Live on-track wagering fell 6.5 percent at $18,908,456 ($205,527), and intrastate wagering was off 9.6 percent at $26,560,027 ($288,676).
Statistics were available from Equibase, a company that monitors data at horse tracks. The Downs has not released any figures.
"We've experienced a growth in the off-track handle that has led to a successful meet," Downs vice president and general manager Peter Berube told the Tampa Bay Times on May 5.
Defending national win leader Jamie Ness won his seventh consecutive training title with 46 victories, 13 in front of Jorge Navarro. Midwest Thoroughbreds, a Ness client, captured its fourth owner title in a row, also with 46 wins. Two-time training champion Kathleen O'Connell finished as the purse earnings leader with $493,469, only $300 ahead of Ness. O'Connell, who collected her 1,500th career victory during the meet, was one win behind Navarro.
Jockey Daniel Centeno won his fifth crown with 90 victories and was first in purse earnings at $1,344,255. Ricardo Mejias topped apprentice riders with 20 wins.
For the first time, the Downs sent the first three finishers of the Tampa Bay Derby — Verrazano (14th), Java's War (13th) and Falling Sky (19th) — to the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky.