01/03/2013 2:00PM

Hawthorne daily average handle declines 7 percent


STICKNEY, Ill. – All-sources average daily handle at Hawthorne Race Course declined 7 percent from 2011 during a fall-winter meet that ended Dec. 30, but things could have been worse. This Hawthorne season will long be remembered for the equine herpesvirus outbreak that began infecting horses in mid-October and led to talk of halting the race meet in midseason.

Betting information provided by the Illinois Racing Board showed all-sources average daily handle during the 55-day meet was $2,121,004, down from $2,284,547 during a 64-day fall-winter meet in 2011. Average daily all-sources handle during the fall-winter 2010 meeting was $2,768,612, a figure almost 25 percent higher than this season’s.

Interstate simulcast handle on Hawthorne races also fell by 7 percent compared to 2011, from $1,946,870 to $1,810,055. Average daily ontrack handle on live races declined 14 percent compared to 2011, from $93,523 to $80,452. Offtrack Illinois betting on Hawthorne fell 8 percent, while Illinois account-wagering handle on Hawthorne increased a modest 6 percent, from $41,277 to $43,911.

An average of 8.57 horses started in the 491 races contested during the meet; 593 races in fall-winter 2011 averaged 8.60 starters per race. Favorites won 33 percent of Hawthorne’s races.

Five-pound apprentice rider Alex Canchari came basically out of nowhere to win his first riding title, booting home 56 winners, four more than runner-up Seth Martinez and nine more than third-place Chris Emigh.

Roger Brueggemann won another training title, sending out 39 winners from 196 starters. He and John Haran, who ran 208 horses, were the meet’s most active trainers.

Midwest Thoroughbreds, the runaway leading owner in the country in 2012, won the owner’s crown with 33 victories, 10 more than Bill Stiritz.

It was in one of Brueggemann’s barns, Barn A, that the EHV-1 virus – which in its most severe form causes a catastrophic loss of coordination – first was detected Oct. 14. Trainer Jim DiVito, stabled in the same barn, was hardest hit and had two horses die during the virus’s initial outbreak. After a period of quiet, during which Barn A was isolated, the virus jumped to the general population, leading to a state-imposed quarantine of the track Oct. 26. A large number of horses that normally would have shipped to warm-weather winter venues were forced to remain at Hawthorne, a situation that might actually have helped field size. Seven Hawthorne horses have died as a result of the virus. While horses have been permitted to depart for approved off-site quarantine facilities, the Hawthorne quarantine remains in force, though the Illinois Department of Agriculture has set Jan. 10 as a target end date.