01/05/2004 1:00AM

Handle rises at Hawthorne


Hawthorne Race Course in Stickney, Ill., reported an increase in daily average handle for its fall meet which concluded Saturday. Daily average handle increased 3 percent to more than $2.95 million, fueled by a 5.5 percent increase in out-of-state handle on Hawthorne's races.

The increases in handle could be attributed to several factors. Fields during the meet were generally full with an average of slightly more than nine starters per race. The lack of inclement weather allowed the track to use the turf course well into November, and unseasonably warm weather during the holidays also helped.

Hawthorne was able to start the fall meet earlier this year after conceding some of its traditional dates in 2002 so Arlington Park could host the Breeders' Cup. The meet's premier event, the Grade 2 Hawthorne Gold Cup, returned to the fall stakes lineup after being run in the spring the last couple of years.

Jockey Randall Meier's three wins on the closing day card brought his meet-leading total to 56 wins, while Michael Reavis saddled 31 winners to lead all trainers. Frank Calabrese won the owners' title with 43 winners.

Racing resumes at Hawthorne with the start of the National Jockey Club meet on Feb. 27.