04/30/2012 4:03PM

Hawthorne out-of-state handle up 33 percent

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Hawthorne Race Course bounced back to life after a poor spring 2011 meeting, attracting far more interest from national simulcast players during a 41-day winter-spring meet that ended Sunday.

Average daily out-of-state betting on Hawthorne races rose from $1,465,271 last year to $1,947,130, an increase of 33 percent, according to figures provided by the Illinois Racing Board.

The 2011 meet was especially poor, and some sort of increase was almost inevitable, but the out-of-state average daily handle also surpassed the amount bettors wagered in 2010, $1,685,817, and probably put to rest – for now, at least – calls from some quarters to abolish the spring racing season at Hawthorne.

Betting handle in all areas bounced back from 2011. The ontrack daily average handle fell to $84,762 in 2011, but was back up to $101,865 this year, a 20 percent increase. All-sources average daily handle came in at $2,291,678, 30 percent higher than the 2011 total average daily and an 11 percent increase compared to 2010.

In a related matter, field size at the meet rose from 7.26 betting interests per race in 2011 to 8.11 this year, a 12  percent increase. The weather was good for much of the season, and a warm winter led to the start of turf racing far earlier in the spring than has been the case in recent seasons.

Veteran jockey Cisco Torres came almost out of nowhere to win his first riding title in years, booting home 56 winners at the meet, 21 more than runner-up Tim Thornton. Midwest Thoroughbreds won 26 races, easily winning the owners title, and fueling the runs of both Torres and trainer Roger Brueggemann, whose 42 wins were 18 more than second-place Frank Kirby’s total.