05/09/2009 11:00PM

Handle down 12 percent at Turf Paradise

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Turf Paradise felt the pinch of a troubled economy like most other tracks as the Phoenix facility saw some handle declines at its recently concluded meet.

According to track figures, overall handle on Turf Paradise races fell 12.3 percent from the 2007-08 stand - $205,054,318 this meet compared to $233,906,130 last year. The 154-day meet (originally set for 156 days with two cards lost to weather) saw a smaller decline in average daily handle of 8.9 percent, $1,331,522 this meet compared to $1,462,999.

Handle fell off less out of state as total export handle this meet ($184,507,961) was off 6.6 percent from 2007-08 ($197, 636,314).

Carlsbad, owned by Dennis Weir, was the unanimous choice for Horse of the Meet. Trained by Kevin Lewis, she also was named top 3-year-old filly and Arizona-bred. She rattled off four huge victories here, including three stakes, with an average winning margin of 12 1/2 lengths. She moved to Southern California and the stable of Jeff Mullins and promptly won the Santa Paula Stakes at Santa Anita on March 30, then ran second in the Grade 3 Railbird at Hollywood Park on Sunday, giving her five wins in six starts.

Weir won his 14th owner's title with 37 victories. Bingham, another of his horses, was also voted top 4-year-old.

Ry Eikleberry captured his first riding crown. He booted home 132 winners, putting him clear of Glenn Corbett and Miguel Hernandez.

The training race came down to the wire and ended up in a dead heat, as Mike Chambers and Keith Bennett finished the meet with 72 winners apiece.

Peace Chant, owned by Mike Gorman and Neil Haymes, was voted top sprinter on the strength of his big win in the Phoenix Gold Cup, while Mike Pegram's Mayor Marv parlayed a win in the Turf Paradise Derby into top 3-year-old honors.

The Arizona racing scene shifts to north as Yavapai Downs in Prescott Valley commences its meet May 23 and runs through Sept. 8. Racing returns to Turf Paradise on Oct. 2.