09/23/2003 12:00AM

Emerald meeting closes with decline in handle


Emerald Downs in Auburn, Wash., closed its 92-day 2003 meeting on Monday with declines in its overall handle and its handle on live racing.

The meeting's total wagering, which includes all betting on Emerald's races and on incoming simulcasts, averaged $1,180,841 a day, down 5.8 percent from last year's average of $1,253,521.

The handle on Emerald's own races averaged $751,582, down 16 percent from the 2002 average of $895,355. That decline was due largely to a decrease in the sale of Emerald's simulcast signal.

Daily purse distribution at the meeting mirrored the total wagering figures, as purses were down 6.7 percent to average $89,300 per day.

Despite those figures, track president Ron Crockett remained optimistic about the track's future. Crockett noted that wagering at the facility, which is the most important figure for the track's bottom line, was off only 2.3 percent to $670,446 per day. He also said that admission revenues were up slightly from last year, suggesting an increase in attendance. The track has never released attendance figures, maintaining it cannot accurately estimate free admissions.

"Given the unemployment in this area and the state of the economy in the country, I think we're holding up amazingly well in the face of the competition," Crockett said. "I think we'll have better numbers next year."

Tim McCanna won his fourth straight training title and his fifth title in Emerald's eight-year history by equaling his own record with 55 wins at the meeting.

Jockey Kevin Radke repeated as leading rider with 143 wins, equaling his total from last year.

Larry and Veralene Hillis's West Ridge Ranch established a new record for owner wins at the meeting with 24.

Horse of the meeting honors went to Youcan'ttakeme, who won four stakes in as many appearances. Youcan'ttakeme, a homebred daughter of He's Tops who races for Herman Sarkowsky, was also named the meet's best 3-year-old filly and top Washington-bred.

Other equine honors went to Poker Brad as top older horse, Infernal McGoon as top older filly or mare, Knightsbridge Road as top 3-year-old male, Corvallis Dee as top 2-year-old male, Sala da Oro as top 2-year-old filly, Ema Bovary as best sprinter, and Rightbyu as claimer of the meeting.

First-year trainer Grant Forster saddled champions Youcan'ttake-me, Infernal McGoon, and Sala da Oro for seven stakes wins at the meeting and was named trainer of the year by the Washington division of the Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association.