01/04/2017 4:16PM

Hawthorne: Fewer races leads to lower handle

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Average daily all-sources handle at Hawthorne’s fall-winter meet fell 7 percent from last year, but that drop came mainly because fewer races were run this season.

Hawthorne averaged $1,679,785 per day during last year’s fall-winter meet and $1,564,655 during the meet that began Oct. 7 and ended Dec. 31. But the 2015-16 fall-winter meet had 47 races days and 408 races compared with this season’s 42-day meet with only 363 races.

Average handle per race ($193,504 this year) and per starter ($24,681) remained virtually unchanged from last season, suggesting that Hawthorne basically held its own. Average starters per race fell from 7.84 last year to 7.80 at this meeting.

Hawthorne, which generates purse money only through handle, had its lowest fall-winter-meet purse structure this season in recent history. The population of horsemen at the track has changed considerably during the last two fall-winter seasons, with many outfits that summer at Arlington leaving Chicago as soon as that meet ends in September. Racing opportunities at Hawthorne have declined steeply during the fall-winter season; there were 532 races conducted as recently as 2013, 32 percent more than this year.

Santo Sanjur, thanks in part to a 60-mount edge, eked out a riding title over Julio Felix, winning 50 races to Felix’s 48. Among jockeys with more than 100 mounts, Felix had the best strike rate at more than 22 percent, and he produced a $2.11 win return on investment during the season.

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Scott Becker, the private trainer for leading owner William Stiritz, won 26 races from 60 starters to easily top the trainer standings.