10/06/2004 12:00AM

Handle takes a slight dip

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WINNIPEG, Manitoba - Average daily handle on live racing for the recently concluded Assiniboia Downs meeting decreased slightly from last year to $127,270, compared to $136,753 in 2003. The decrease can mainly be attributed to less wagering at other outlets on Assiniboia's races. Offtrack handle on the track's races averaged $40,449 per day compared to $47,064 for the previous year.

There was also a slight decrease in ontrack handle, to $86,821 per day from $89,689 in 2003.

Assiniboia Downs lost four cards over the Victoria Day weekend in May after a press box fire forced the track to close temporarily.

On the racetrack, jockey Travis Hightower won his second consecutive rider title with 98 wins. Larren Delorme was second with 66 victories, while Beth Butler and Jerry Pruitt tied for third with 57 wins apiece.

Ardell Sayler won his fourth training title in the past five years with 40 wins, six ahead of second-place Emile Corbel. Gary Danelson finished third with 29 wins.

In stakes action on the closing weekend, Remiewaterbluz ($26) won Saturday's Matron Breeders' Cup Stakes, with Pete's Surprise second and Victory Thrill third. Trained by Clayton Gray and ridden by Paul Leacock, Remiewaterbluz was recording her second stakes win of the year and that should be good enough to give her the province's top older mare honors.

Sunday, Deputy Country ($4.70) won the Breeders' Gold Cup Stakes for his second stakes win here and sixth overall. Trained by Carl Anderson and ridden by Ken Hendricks, Deputy Country finished the 1 1/8 miles in 1:52.60.

Deputy Country should take top older horse honors, and deserves some consideration for Manitoba horse of the year. However, that award will likely go to Shanghied, who appears to be a certainty for top 3-year-old colt honors.

Ericka's Lass and Your Excellence, both trained by Corbel, will probably be named top 3-year-old filly and 2-year-old colt, respectively. Gold Strike will likely be named top 2-year-old filly and could also merit consideration for the province's horse of the year.