01/03/2006 1:00AM

Hawthorne figures mixed


Out-of-state simulcast bettors embraced Hawthorne Race Course's 2005 fall-winter meet, which concluded Monday, but the local fan base continued to erode, with an 11-percent drop in ontrack handle during the season.

Since racetracks derive the largest commissions from bets placed at their facility on live races, ontrack declines hurt, but all-sources total handle on live races for the Hawthorne season did increase nearly 11 percent, up to a daily average of $3,103,147 from $2,800,840 last year. Fueling the increase was the out-of-state betting on Hawthorne's races, which rose more than 16 percent from an average of $2,190,266 last year to $2,549,257 in 2005.

Even with robust offtrack handle, Hawthorne cut purses by 7 percent in mid-November. Hawthorne had earned more than in previous years from winter dark-time simulcast handle, and began its meet with unusually high purse levels. Track officials pointed out that even after the cut, purses remained higher than at the end of the more prestigious Arlington meet in September.

Fields remained full throughout the meet, and average field size for the season was 9.01 - a major factor in out-of-state betting interest.

Chris Emigh and Shane Laviolette dueled for leading rider, but Emigh won five races Sunday and captured the title, 66-61. Wayne Catalano won the training title with 35 winners, while his principal owner, Frank Calabrese, won his sixth straight crown as leading Hawthorne owner, sending out 35 winners from 101 starters.

Racing resumes at Hawthorne on Feb. 24.