09/14/2005 12:00AM

Field size and handle both increase from '04

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SASKATOON, Saskatchewan - An increase in purses, including moving the purse for bottom claimers from $2,500 to $3,000, helped fuel fuller fields and higher handle at the 2005 Marquis Downs meet, which ended Saturday.

With purses up, more horsemen were here this summer and the average number of horses running per race increased from 6.5 in 2004 to 8 in 2005.

This, in turn, stimulated the mutuels, and track management saw the live handle increase by about 22 percent to about $27,200 per day, up from $22,300 in 2004.

The total live handle was approximately $790,000 over 29 race days. Two cards were canceled because of poor track conditions, but one was made up during the last week of the meeting and races were added to other cards throughout the summer.

Wind Dancer's victory on closing day in the Saskatchewan Derby topped an impressive year for him of five wins and a second from six outings for earnings of $26,200. Wind Dancer won four stakes races and placed second in another, and led all runners here in money won and in victories.

Don Bjarnarson's 18 wins from 64 starters were good enough to secure another training title, holding off Mike Tourangeau by one win. Arlene Flegel, trainer of Wind Dancer, was another five wins back in third.

Tim Moccasin won 43 races to top the jockey race over Serge Rocheleau's 38 riding scores. Haniff Emamalie was third with 27 victories.