05/06/2009 12:00AM

Hawthorne business slips


A sharp decline in total handle during Hawthorne's 2009 spring meet more than offset gains posted during the 2008 spring meet at the Chicago-area track. A year after out-of-state handle on Hawthorne races rose 5 percent, the same type of betting declined by 15 percent, leading to a 15 percent decline in total average daily handle for the 38-day Hawthorne meet that ended April 27.

Out-of-state handle on Hawthorne races averaged $1.94 million in 2008, but fell to $1.64 million this year, according to figures compiled by the Illinois Racing Board. Total handle fell to $1.98 million per day in 2009 after averaging $2.3 million in 2008.

Ontrack handle on Hawthorne races was off 8 percent from 2008, but hardly could have fallen more steeply given the 17-percent decline from 2007 to 2008. In 2007, Hawthorne averaged $154,180 per day in ontrack handle on live races, but that figure was down to just $117,115 this spring.

Hawthorne was negatively affected by weather this year, with a cold, wet spring keeping a damper on live crowd.

Frank Kirby won his third straight Hawthorne spring training title, while Tim Thornton edged Inez Karlsson for leading rider, 46 wins to 43.