10/01/2012 4:19PM

Arlington Park: All-sources handle rises 6 percent, Illinois commission reports

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Driven by a 9 percent increase in out-of-state betting on its live races, Arlington Park ended its 2012 meet Sunday with a solid overall gain in average daily handle compared with the 2011 season.

All-sources average daily handle during the May 4-Sept. 30 meet was $3,201,354, up 6 percent from $3,007,458 in 2011 at the suburban Chicago track, according to the Illinois Racing Board. Churchill Downs Inc., Arlington’s parent company, does not announce handle figures. The 2012 daily average includes 89 full days, but excludes one card that was only partly completed because of bad weather. Gross handle for those 89 days was $284,920,506. That number is substantially higher than in 2011, when Arlington raced 85 days.

The out-of-state bump, from a daily average of $2,291,672 in 2011 to $2,488,440 this year, marks the second straight year that out-of-state handle increased. Ontrack betting on Arlington’s races dropped 4 percent, from $417,678 in 2011 to $399,409.

Average field size was 8.2 starters per race, a tiny drop from 8.3 in 2011. Arlington raced its entire 2012 season with purses boosted by casino impact-fee funds that became available in August 2011, thus affecting only the last 1 1/2 months of the 2011 meeting. The racing office struggled during several periods to attract entries, particularly for races on Polytrack. Arlington ran a record 319 turf races in 2012, up from 274 in 2011.

The meet got off to a rocky start because of a contractual dispute between the Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association and Arlington. Many horsemen declined to enter during opening weekend.

That Wayne Catalano topped the trainer standings with 63 winners came as no surprise: The title was Catalano’s 10th at Arlington, though Chris Block’s barn led the meeting in purses won. But Cisco Torres winning his first Arlington jockey’s crown came totally out of the blue. Torres hadn’t ridden regularly at Arlington for years, and he led the standings most of the meet, beating out 2011 riding champ James Graham, 100-90. Richard and Karen Papiese’s Midwest Thoroughbreds led all owners with 26 wins.