11/29/2004 12:00AM

Churchill numbers mixed


Business trends at the 21-day Churchill Downs fall meet that ended Saturday were mixed, with all-sources wagering falling slightly and ontrack numbers rising slightly in comparison to figures from the 2003 fall meet.

Handle on Churchill Downs races from all sources averaged $7,791,943, down 2.5 percent from last year, when Churchill set a fall record. The total handle reflected a 4 percent decrease in wagering from offtrack sources, whereas ontrack handle on Churchill races averaged nearly $1.1 million per card, an increase of 8 percent.

Purses averaged $495,788, up 17 percent over last fall, an increase skewed by the fact that last year's fall meet ran 27 days. Field size averaged 9.82 horses per race, up from 9.66 last fall.

Ontrack attendance, which included the nearby Trackside simulcast annex, averaged 7,467, up nearly 11 percent.

Churchill's president, Steve Sexton, said he was pleased with the meet, during which a near-record amount of rain fell in the area and some of the track's top riders were banned after staging a work stoppage on Nov. 10.

On the racetrack, John McKee won the riding title with 27 wins, four more than perennial kingpin Pat Day and apprentice Brian Hernandez Jr.

Steve Asmussen, who this year set a record for wins by a trainer and who won the spring training title here, won the fall title with 14 wins, three more than Bob Holthus and Ken McPeek.

The owner title went to Overbrook Farm, whose five victories were the smallest winning total at a fall meet since 1993. Ken and Sarah Ramsey were one behind, ending their track-record streak of consecutive owner titles at nine.

This was the last meet during which ontrack fans will have been inconvenienced by Churchill's $121 million renovation, which began in December 2001. Sexton said the project will be "100 percent" completed by next spring.