09/19/2007 11:00PM

Arlington's handle increases

EmailARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Arlington invested close to $11 million on a Polytrack racing surface between its 2006 and 2007 race meets. It looks like money well spent.

While the 94-day 2007 meet which ended Sunday posted only modest increases over 2005, a more typical Arlington year, it represented a major rebound from a troubled 2006.

Total handle on Arlington's 2007 live product was up 12.8 percent from 2006. Last year, a total of $370,737,863 was bet on Arlington races; this year, the total was $418,103,383, a gross increase of $47,365,520.

Using official figures reported to the Illinois Racing Board, Arlington averaged $4,447,909 in total handle on its live product this year, an increase of about 3 percent from 2005. Ontrack handle on Arlington races - the kind of betting that returns the greatest percentage to the track - rose 19.3 percent from last season, averaging $580,861 per day. That figure, however, is up less than 1 percent from the 2005 average.

An average of 8,161 people attended the races this year, an increase of 18.2 percent over 2006 (daily average of 6,903), and a significant 7.3 percent better than 2005 (7,607 average).

Both attendance and handle fell last year in great part because of a rash of catastrophic breakdowns. Fatal in-race breakdowns declined by half this year, from 24 to 12, a number more in line with historical norms here.

Polytrack is advertised as offering a level playing field to the horses racing over it, and Arlington data on Polytrack winners backed that up, with closers and speed horses winning about the same percentage of races. Outside and inside posts split wins 50-50, and favorites won 29 percent of the time.

While many horsemen praised the new surface, others said some of their stock continued to experience physical problems, just as on a dirt track. Trainer Christine Janks, who had a good meet in 2007, but not as good as her 2006 season, offered a point of view shared my many here: "I don't think Polytrack is the savior of racing," Janks said.

Janks said Polytrack, with its lack of kickback, had reduced eye injuries. On the other hand, Janks said Polytrack "grabs them a little too hard on the hind end," which can cause soreness.

Trainer Wayne Catalano broke his own meet record with 74 victories, the same record-setting number amassed by Catalano's owner, Frank Calabrese.

Rene Douglas easily topped the rider standings with 129 wins, 37 more than runner-up Chris Emigh.ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Arlington invested close to $11 million on a Polytrack racing surface between its 2006 and 2007 race meets. It looks like money well spent.

While the 94-day 2007 meet which ended Sunday posted only modest increases over 2005, a more typical Arlington year, it represented a major rebound from a troubled 2006.

Total handle on Arlington's 2007 live product was up 12.8 percent from 2006. Last year, a total of $370,737,863 was bet on Arlington races; this year, the total was $418,103,383, a gross increase of $47,365,520.

Using official figures reported to the Illinois Racing Board, Arlington averaged $4,447,909 in total handle on its live product this year, an increase of about 3 percent from 2005. Ontrack handle on Arlington races - the kind of betting that returns the greatest percentage to the track - rose 19.3 percent from last season, averaging $580,861 per day. That figure, however, is up less than 1 percent from the 2005 average.

An average of 8,161 people attended the races this year, an increase of 18.2 percent over 2006 (daily average of 6,903), and a significant 7.3 percent better than 2005 (7,607 average).

Both attendance and handle fell last year in great part because of a rash of catastrophic breakdowns. Fatal in-race breakdowns declined by half this year, from 24 to 12, a number more in line with historical norms here.

Polytrack is advertised as offering a level playing field to the horses racing over it, and Arlington data on Polytrack winners backed that up, with closers and speed horses winning about the same percentage of races. Outside and inside posts split wins 50-50, and favorites won 29 percent of the time.

While many horsemen praised the new surface, others said some of their stock continued to experience physical problems, just as on a dirt track. Trainer Christine Janks, who had a good meet in 2007, but not as good as her 2006 season, offered a point of view shared my many here: "I don't think Polytrack is the savior of racing," Janks said.

Janks said Polytrack, with its lack of kickback, had reduced eye injuries. On the other hand, Janks said Polytrack "grabs them a little too hard on the hind end," which can cause soreness.

Trainer Wayne Catalano broke his own meet record with 74 victories, the same record-setting number amassed by Catalano's owner, Frank Calabrese.

Rene Douglas easily topped the rider standings with 129 wins, 37 more than runner-up Chris Emigh.