07/08/2002 12:00AM

Churchill handle rises 6%

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Following a familiar trend, business at the Churchill spring meet that ended Sunday was up from all wagering sources but down slightly ontrack.

A record of more than $553 million was bet at all sources during the 52-day meet, up 6 percent over corresponding dates in 2001. A large chunk of that increase is attributable to record wagering on the May 4 Kentucky Derby, which was up 11 percent over last year.

Meanwhile, daily ontrack attendance and handle averaged 13,036 and $1,772,571, decreases of 4 and 1 percent.

An average off-track handle of $8.86 million a day (up 7 percent) helped to more than offset the mediocre ontrack numbers, which have stagnated at Churchill since the nearby Caesars riverboat became operational in November 1998. The solid all-sources numbers allowed Churchill to offer average daily purses of $437,533, up 4 percent over 2001.

"Total wagering continues to grow as fans throughout North America have proven again that they love the brand of racing offered by Churchill Downs," said track president Alex Waldrop.

Meanwhile, Dale Romans and Tom Amoss tied for leading trainer with 23 winners each. With 19 wins, Ken and Sarah Ramsey were the leading owners, for the fifth consecutive meet, a Churchill record. Pat Day, with 72 wins, was the leading jockey for a record 32nd time, including his 15th spring meet title.

The highlight of the meet was the 20-1 upset by War Emblem in the Derby. Other highs include the Kentucky Oaks victory by Farda Amiga and a romp in the Stephen Foster Handicap by Street Cry.

The five-week fall meet at Churchill runs Oct. 27 to Nov. 30.