09/04/2002 12:00AM

Evangeline business declines slightly


LAFAYETTE, La. - After a promising start in the spring, a slow month of August pulled the final totals for the 82-day Evangeline Downs meet into negative territory compared to a year ago. Although down, Evangeline's night time simulcast signal is far from out as it remains one of the stronger signals in Louisiana and Texas.

All sources handle of $108,587,180 was wagered on the Evangeline product this season for an average of $1,324,234 per day. Those figures represent a 3 percent decrease from last year's total of $111,813,783 with an average daily handle of $1,363,668.

Ontrack handle also slipped from an average of $111,450 a day a year ago to $110,195 this season, a decrease of 2 percent.

"August just killed us," said Charles Ashy Jr., the track's vice president. "It was likely a combination of things. The economy continues to struggle and we did have some small fields during this time along with numerous scratches. It seems that college football started a little earlier and in earnest this year. We are just going to regroup and come back strong next season."

While business was not as brisk as management wanted, the race for the top spot in the riders' standings was hotly contested all season. Veteran C.J. Woodley edged clear in the last week to finish with 93 wins, 11 more than Jamie Theriot. Kerwin Clark enjoyed an excellent season with 78 victories while winning at a 22 percent clip. Steve Bourque finished one win further behind in fourth.

The trainer's title chase was not as close as Dale Angelle remained solid all meeting long and finished with 74 wins. Keith Bourgeois was steady as well and finished second with 50 wins. Sam Breaux sent out 32 winners from only 143 starters.