09/14/2004 11:00PM

Boost in handle figures bodes well for 2005

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SASKATOON, Saskatchewan - Marquis Downs, which ended its meet Saturday, experienced a very positive year in 2004, and hopes for 2005 are high.

Purses for next year are expected to rise about 10 percent, based on a solid increase in simulcasting revenue of about $1 million.

Not only were simulcasting totals up, but so too was the live handle, averaging $22,500 a day, up 9.5 percent from 2003. The handle could have been up even more if it were not for poor weather.

Purses increased by about 12 percent in 2004, and a there were a number of other positives for the local industry.

A $20,000 incentive fund for owners and breeders was established and will be distributed retroactively for 2004 Saskatchewan-bred winners. The fund is expected to be larger in 2005. The annual Saskatchewan Canadian Thoroughbred Horse Society yearling sale showed an increase of 9 percent in average over last year.

Serge Rocheleau was the runaway winner of the jockeys' title with 56 wins from 188 mounts. Haniff Emamalie was second with 38 victories, and Rennie Latchman was third with 22.

The trainers' race was tight all year and finished in the same way it did in 2003, with Hubert Pilon and Don Bjarnarson tying for top honors. Both had 19 victories. Russell Gardipy was one win back in third.

Stakes highlights included Noble Dane winning the Saskatchewan Derby and Bleu Royale taking the Prairie Lily Sales Stakes via disqualification.

Two horses had five wins at the meet. Year of the Fox won each of his five starts, while Double Time won 5 of 8 and will contend for provincial horse of the year honors once again.