10/23/2006 12:00AM

Average handle up 4 percent


The record $7.3 million that Louisiana Downs handled last month on its Super Derby Day card helped lift the track to a 4 percent increase in average daily handle during its 93-day meet that closed Saturday. From all sources, Louisiana Downs handled an average $2,068,722 a day on its races, up from $1,985,467 during the corresponding 91-day meet in 2005.

Attendance at the track, which operates a slots casino, is free, so no crowd figures are released. Purses at the meet averaged $199,000 a day, which officials said was almost identical to the distribution in 2005.

"It was a great meet," said Mark Midland, vice president of racing operations at Louisiana Downs. "We built handle the whole way through, and it really culminated in a big day on Super Derby Day."

Louisiana Downs ran five stakes on its Sept. 23 Super Derby, and broke its previous all-time handle mark of $6.7 million, set on Super Derby Day in 2003.

Cole Norman tied the record for most Louisiana Downs training titles, wining his ninth straight crown with 66 wins. Frank Brothers won nine titles here from 1980-1988. Norman's stable earnings of $1,080,660 topped all trainers.

Among riders, Lonnie Meche edged Carlos Gonzalez by two wins to pick up his third title at Louisiana Downs. Meche won 99 races, and his mount earnings of $1,940,755 led all riders. Meche's brothers, Cody Meche and Donnie Meche, finished third and fourth in the standings at Louisiana Downs.

The track will open for a Quarter Horse meet Jan. 20.