01/03/2011 3:35PM

Hawthorne posts gain in average handle


Hawthorne Race Course’s 2010 fall-winter race meet ended Friday with a 7.8-percent gain in all-sources average daily handle compared to the 2009 meet. This year’s gain wiped out last year’s loss, when average daily handle dropped 7 percent. Ontrack handle on the live product continued its inexorable decline: Betting on that front was down 3.8 percent and has dropped more than 22 percent since 2007.

According to figures provided by Hawthorne, all-sources average daily handle was $2,768,612, up from $2,567,856 last year. Ontrack handle on live racing fell from an average of $110,612 to $107,114. Hawthorne significantly reduced its racing schedule during fall 2010, eliminating Sunday racing and switching from five- to four-day race weeks. Including partial cards, there were 49 programs during this fall-winter season compared to 63 last season, producing a gross handle decline from $161,774,928 to $135,661,988.

Hawthorne carded fewer higher-level races during the 2010 fall-winter meet in order to eliminate a large overpayment to the horsemen’s purse account. That objective achieved, Hawthorne has said it will pay higher purses when racing resumes Feb. 14 with a two-days-per-week schedule.

Field size at the meet was up more than one horse per race from last season, rising to 9.77 starters per race from 8.55.

Tim Thornton won the riding title, while Joel Berndt was the leading trainer. Midwest Thoroughbreds topped the owner standings, while Redding Colliery beat Giant Oak in the meet’s best race, the Hawthorne Gold Cup.