11/27/2006 12:00AM

Daily handle up almost 3 percent

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia - Hastings closed its 2006 live meet earlier than planned as the final nine races on Sunday were canceled due to unsafe track conditions caused by heavy snowfall.

For the 78-day meeting, average daily all-sources handle on Hastings's races was up almost 3 percent, to $870,729 from $848,031 for last year's 82-day meet. Total handle for the shorter meet this year was down by 2 percent from last year, and per-race handle was up by 7 percent.

"Although it was a challenging season, we are pleased that our average handle per race was up," said Raj Mutti, track director of operations.

Great Canadian Gaming Corp., the owner of Hastings, opened teletheater wagering outlets in two of its casinos, so it wasn't surprising that the total ontrack handle fell almost 13 percent.

New ground was broken when a woman became the leading trainer for the first time in the 117-year history of Thoroughbred racing in Vancouver. Actually, in this case, two women. Terry Clyde and Barb Heads tied with 48 wins. Heads won three races on Saturday to tie Clyde for the title. Clyde and Heads both started 267 horses. Last year's leading trainer, Gary Demorest finished third with 42 wins.

Pedro Alvarado, with 114 wins, was the leading rider for the fourth time in five years. Mario Gutierrez finished a distant second with 91 wins. Gutierrez, who lost his bug in July, was the leading apprentice.