09/26/2011 7:14PM

Arlington's business up slightly from 2010

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ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - A year after posting dismal business figures, Arlington Park bounced slightly back with narrow 2011 gains over last year's betting totals.

Average daily all-sources handle at the 85-day meet that began May 6 and concluded Sunday was $3,007,493. That's a 3-percent increase from 2010, when average daily all-sources handle came in at $2,907,844, but if there is a light at the end of the tunnel, it remains dim. The 2011 total average daily figure still is down 25 percent from the $4,003,711 handled in 2009.  The figures were made available by the Illinois Racing Board, as Arlington's owner, Churchill Downs Inc., does not release such information publicly.

The modest gains over 2010 were led by out-of-state handle on Arlington races, which rose 5 percent to $2,292,301 this summer. Bets placed at Arlington on Arlington races fell by 3 percent from last year to an average daily figure of $417,130.

The meet got a late boost when millions of dollars in impact-fee funds collected from four northern Illinois casinos were released to the Illinois racing industry after the casinos' long legal battle to avert distribution of the money ended. Average daily overnight purses were raised 27-percent by late August and finished the 2011 meeting at about $212,000 per day. Field size improved with the purse increase and when racing in Indiana, a major Arlington competitor for horses in the region, shifted in early August from Indiana Downs, which has a turf course, to Hoosier Park, which does not.

James Graham, who began his career years ago on the Irish turf, captured his first Arlington riding title, outlasting Jozbin Santana and Junior Alvarado. Graham's 82 winners were three more than his nearest pursuers in a race that came down to closing day. Chicago-area native Larry Rivelli earned his first Arlington training crown by winning 39 races. William Stiritz, downstate Fairmount Park's owner, topped the owner standings with 37 victories.

Affecting the jockey, trainer, and owner standings at the 2011 season was the absence of perennial Arlington kingpin Frank Calabrese, who did not have a string of runners in Chicago this summer, racing instead at various East Coast venues.

Cape Blanco, who returns to action this weekend in New York, was the Arlington Million hero, as his trainer, Aidan O'Brien, also won the 2011 Secretariat with Treasure Beach.