01/03/2003 1:00AM

Etc. . . .

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Business at the Tropical Park meet at Calder that concluded Thursday posted a 6 percent decline from the previous year in average ontrack handle and a

2 percent decline in overall combined handle. Attendance was up less than 1 percent. . . . Racing officials from the Triple Crown host racetracks have hit the road to collect nominations for the 2003 Triple Crown races and the Triple Crown Challenge, a $5 million bonus for a horse who wins the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Belmont Stakes. Early nominations to the series cost $600 per horse and are due by midnight, Jan. 18, after which nominations are $6,000 per horse until midnight on March 29.