Track attendance shows largest decline

March 26, 1993|By Bill Finley | Bill Finley,New York Daily News

There's still more grim news for a sport that is in a serious and perhaps irreversible tailspin. According to the Daily Racing Form's annual survey, racetrack attendance fell 4.6 percent in 1992, the largest decline ever.

Even more troubling, total handle rose by just 1.2 percent over 1991, which had seen the smallest increase in history. When taking into account that total wagering opportunities rose dramatically with the ever-widening increase in simulcasting, the percent figure actually represents a severe decline.

Many embrace simulcasting as racing's savior, but just where is the evidence to that effect? Such a stagnant betting picture proves that, more than anything else, simulcasting merely shifts the same old total betting dollars around to new locations.

* While he says his future plans remain uncertain, Steve Cauthen continues to take significant steps toward being an ex-jockey. Cauthen, only 32, said this week he will be joining the team of ABC commentators for this year's Triple Crown races.

For Cauthen, that rules out a return to riding before mid- to late summer and perhaps for the remainder of the year. He did add that there still remains a possibility he will start riding in Hong Kong this fall. Of course, there's also the strong possibility that VTC he will never ride again.

"I haven't made any definite decisions as far as riding," he said. "I could go back to it tomorrow if I decided to do so. My wife [Amy] is expecting our first child in May and obviously I'd like to be a part of that. So to be home in Kentucky and to work on the Triple Crown is going to afford me the chance to do that."

Following the end of last year's British racing season, Cauthen failed to reach a contractual agreement with Sheikh Mohammed al Maktoum, which made him a rider without a job. Because jockeys ride at lower weights here, he has all but ruled out a return to North American racing.

Cauthen has not even seen a live Kentucky Derby since 1978, the year he rode eventual Triple Crown winner Affirmed. It shows. He called Corby, the top Derby threat from the West, "Caldry" and "Cody" ... everything but Corby. Oh, well, give him time, he's sure to learn.

He may run into another problem -- Cauthen's wife is due May 15, Preakness Day.

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