11/26/2001 1:00AM

All-sources handle sets record


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - The Churchill Downs fall meet, which ran Oct. 28 through Saturday, continued a familiar trend as all-sources wagering set an all-time high and ontrack numbers were mixed.

All-sources wagering at the 24-day meet totaled nearly $174.8 million, eclipsing the meet record of $160.6 million, set during a 23-day meet last year (discounting a 24th program, Breeders' Cup Day, for comparison purposes). The daily average of $7,282,573 is a 4.3 percent increase over last year.

Meanwhile, ontrack attendance was up 8.2 percent over last year, but ontrack wagering was down 10.3 percent. The respective averages for the meet were 8,494 and $1,167,394.

"The folks came out and had a good time this meet, but they didn't bet much," said track spokesman John Asher.

Except for a rainy closing day, the weather was exceptionally good throughout the meet. In addition, several giveaways proved very popular, including Pat Day bobbleheads, 2002 calendars, and umbrellas.

Churchill's simulcast signal is among the most popular in North America. Daily purses averaged nearly $405,000, and average field size was a robust 9.43. Yet since the Caesars riverboat casino opened three years ago across the river in Harrison County, Ind., ontrack wagering has fallen nearly 17 percent, said Asher.

Officials from Churchill and other Kentucky tracks have met numerous times this year with Kentucky legislators to discuss the issue of eroding business. With the 2002 state General Assembly set to convene Jan. 8, the issue of alternative gaming at racetracks promises to be a very hot topic.

Churchill president Alex Waldrop called the decline in ontrack handle a "major concern" and said the overall strength of the racing product "underscores the importance of finding ways to grow our purses and continue to attract large fields."

- On the track, Pat Day captured his 31st Churchill riding title, with 32 winners. Steve Asmussen led the trainer standings with 13 winners, and for the fourth straight meet, Ken and Sarah Ramsey won or tied for the owners title. They led all owners with nine wins.