10/01/2013 2:39PM

Arlington Park: Daily average handle drops 7 percent


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. – Average daily betting handle during the 89-day Arlington race meet that ended Sunday fell below $3 million for the first time since 2010, the year the track experienced a 27 percent decline in average daily all-sources handle.

Average daily all-sources handle fell 7 percent this year compared to 2012, dropping from $3,201,354 to $2,975,431. Ontrack average daily handle dropped 5 percent, to $379,846, while out-of-state handle on Arlington’s races was down 8 percent, to $2,370,289.

The season was far from disastrous, but Arlington has never really rebounded from the precipitous betting drop it experienced between 2009, when average daily all-sources handle was more than $4 million, and 2010, when handle cratered to $2.9 million.

Arlington’s average field size peaked at 8.34 starters per race in 2011 and has fallen the last two years, dipping to 7.91 starters per race during the 2013 meet. Still, that is more starters than Arlington averaged during the better business year of 2009, when the suburban Chicago track averaged 7.85 starters. Arlington installed an all-weather Polytrack main track in 2007, and an average of just 7.46 horses started in Polytrack races this season, but Arlington averaged only 7.14 dirt starters per race in 2006 and 7.6 in 2005.

A drier-than-normal summer produced 300 turf races during this season, down from 319 last year, but up from 274 in 2011 and 289 in 2010. Favorites won more often on turf than Polytrack; the Arlington main-track produced 32 percent winning favorites this summer, below the national norm, while 37 percent of favorites won over turf.

Leading trainer at the meet came as no surprise: Wayne Catalano won his 11th Arlington title by sending out 70 winners, and his $2,060,909 in purse earnings was an Arlington record. Midwest Thoroughbreds, the runaway North American leading owner by wins, captured its second straight Arlington owners’ title, with 31 victories.

But few would have predicted that first-year rider Emmanual Esquivel would win the riding title. The 23-year-old Esquivel, who launched his career in February, outpaced James Graham, 79-75, though Graham rode at Kentucky Downs on two of the Arlington meet’s final Saturdays. Esquivel became the first apprentice to win an Arlington title since 1940.

The Arlington Million, for the third time in 11 years, was decided on a disqualification, with first-place The Apache taken down to second for interfering with runner-up Real Solution in deep stretch. Dank left no doubt who was best in the Beverly D., running away to a blowout victory. Admiral Kitten won the Secretariat, the meet’s third Grade 1 race.