09/04/2006 11:00PM

Handle soars at Evangeline

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Evangeline Downs in Opelousas, La., reported a double-digit gain in average daily handle during its 92-date Thoroughbred meet that closed Monday. The track handled an average of $1.5 million a night on its live races, an increase of 32 percent over the corresponding 2005 season.

Several factors led to the spike in betting. An all-time handle record was set July 1, when $2,182,506 was wagered on the Louisiana Legends card, a program of stakes. The average field size this meet was nearly 10 starters, one of the highest in North America.

Evangeline paid out a track-record $170,000 in purses a day, up from $160,000 in 2005. Slots revenues were key to the purse structure.

Kirk LeBlanc was the leading rider with 80 wins, and his mounts earned a meet-best $1,292,731. Trainer Keith Bourgeois won his third straight title, with 61 wins and meet-best stable earnings of $970,652.