09/30/2003 11:00PM

Handle rises slightly from 2002

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WINNIPEG, Man. - The Assiniboia Downs live race meeting came to a close last Sunday with average daily wagering on live races up slightly from 2002.

An average daily total handle of $136,753 was recorded on 73 live race days in 2003, compared with an average of $135,657 bet on 74 live race days in 2002.

Live ontrack handle was also up in 2003, with an average of $89,689 wagered compared with $84,631 in 2002.

Overall wagering was down slightly at $10,005,412, compared with $10,038,617 in 2002. Simulcast partner wagering was also down in 2003, coming in at an average of $47,064 per day for a total simulcast partner handle of $3,438,875, compared with $51,026 per day in 2002 for a total of $3,775,899.

Newcomer Travis Hightower gave a riding clinic over the summer and took the leading rider title with a record of 98-63-45 from 394 mounts and purse earnings of $757,197.

Hightower finished 43 wins in front of Juan Crawford, who managed to hold second in the standings with a record of 55-41-42 from 326 mounts for earnings of $455,249, despite serving 20 days worth of suspensions.

Mike Iammarino, a former three-time leading rider in Alberta, finished third in the standings with a record of 48-32-40 from 359 mounts for $409,463 in earnings, which was exceptional considering he arrived a month late.

Rounding out the top five in the jockey standings are Jason Leacock, who successfully made the jump from apprentice to journeyman in midseason with 47 wins, and Tim Gardiner, who surged to 43 wins later in the season with the help of new agent Marcel Crowe.

Gary Danelson and Ardell Sayler overcame serious illness to lead the trainer standings, with Danelson putting an end to Sayler's quest for a record four consecutive training titles.

Danelson finished the year with a record of 55-38-27 from 189 starts for purse earnings of $417,424. Sayler finished 18 wins behind Danelson with a record of 37-32-28 from 223 starts for earnings of $302,053. Tom Gardipy came on strong at the end of the meet to record 25 wins followed by Chad Torevell and Clayton Gray with 22 wins apiece.