01/06/2015 3:31PM

Average daily handle rises at Hawthorne fall-winter meet

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Less meant slightly more during Hawthorne Race Course’s 51-day fall-winter meeting that ended Saturday, as a reduction in racing days compared with the previous year was accompanied by an increase in all-sources average daily handle.

Hawthorne, which dropped Sunday racing last fall, averaged $2,145,485 in all-sources daily handle, according to figures provided by the Illinois Racing Board, a 6.3 percent increase compared with the $2,008,334 the track handled during a comparable meeting during 2013. That meet had 61 scheduled race days but ran only four races on one of the cards because of deteriorating track conditions.

Hawthorne wound up reducing race days by 15.6 percent this meet. Gross handle on the live product last year was $121,303,384, compared with $109,449,778 during the fall-winter 2014-15 meet. The all-sources average daily boost reversed a 5 percent decline last year compared with the 2012 fall-winter meet. Despite the uptick in all-sources average daily handle, ontrack betting on Hawthorne races was down slightly this year, averaging a mere $67,046 per day.

The decreased racing days spurred an increase in average starters per race, which rose from 7.92 last season to 8.2 this season. A similar number of grass races – which tend to attract larger fields – were run both meets; 51 this season, 49 last season.

Manny Esquivel won his first riding title as a journeyman, notching 67 wins, nine more than Tim Thornton, who surged late in the meet. Trainers Jim DiVito and Scott Becker each won 24 races. Bill Stiritz was the runaway leading owner.

For accounting purposes, the fall-winter season was actually divided into two meets, one running through Dec. 31, the other including the three cards in January.