01/19/2009 1:00AM

Hawthorne handle numbers mixed

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Hawthorne Race Course bucked declining national handle trends, eking out a slight year-to-year increase in total average daily handle during a fall-winter race meet that concluded Jan. 12.

That increase, though, was accompanied by a continued erosion of ontrack customers betting on Hawthorne races, the type of wagering that generates the highest percentage returns for track operators and horsemen.

Hawthorne's 70-day meet (down from 79 days last year) produced an average daily all-sources handle of $2,775,162, a 3-percent increase from the 2007-2008 meet, but still 1 percent lower than the 2006-2007 meeting. That increase was entirely driven by out-of-state handle, which rose 6 percent this year to $2,372,988, a total 3 percent higher even than the 2006-2007 season.

But ontrack betting on Hawthorne races declined 14 percent from 2007-2008 to a daily average of just $117,717. Combining the declines recorded in the same category last season, Hawthorne has seen ontrack handle on its live racing fall by almost 25 percent in two years. Wagers taken at other Illinois betting outlets on Hawthorne races also fell, but at a more moderate 6-percent level from last year.

Inez Karlsson, who lost her apprentice allowance earlier this month, won her first riding title, beating out a game Chris Emigh. Karlsson, a finalist for an Eclipse Award as 2008's leading apprentice, will return to Hawthorne when racing resumes here in March.

On the training side, Roger Brueggemann won a hotly contested race during the meet's final weekend, beating out Frank Kirby and Brian Williamson 29-26. Frank Calabrese was the leading owner.