05/03/2011 3:08PM

Hawthorne all-sources handle declines 13 percent

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Plagued by poor weather and a lack of horse inventory, the 41-day Hawthorne Race Course winter-spring meet that ended Saturday suffered significant handle declines.

Ontrack betting on live Hawthorne races fell 17 percent from the 2010 winter-spring meet, dropping from $102,718 to $84,762. Betting throughout Illinois on the Hawthorne product was off 16 percent, while out-of-state wagering on Hawthorne was down 13 percent, declining from $1,719,147 last year to $1,496,273. All-sources average daily handle at the meet was $1,761,951, down 13 percent from the 2010 average of $2,036,924.

All the figures quoted were supplied by the Illinois Racing Board, which at press time Tuesday had not finished figuring account-wagering handle on Hawthorne into the meet’s final accounting. Handle comparisons between 2010 and 2011 also are imperfect because Hawthorne changed its racing schedule this year, dropping Sunday cards and going to a Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday schedule. For lack of horses (Hawthorne averaged just 7.23 starters per race at the meet), the track also put forth more eight-race cards than in previous years, further suppressing average daily handle. In a press release, Hawthorne said that handle had declined at an 8-percent rate per individual race this season.

Chicago was hit by a historical blizzard days before the racing season opened in February. Rain fell so often in April that Hawthorne never was able to utilize its turf course, which sat ready with a couple racing weeks still left in the meet.

Tanner Riggs and Jozbin Santana wound up tied for leading rider, while Joel Berndt won his second straight Hawthorne training title. Eagle Valley Farm led the owner standings.