11/01/2004 1:00AM

Louisiana Downs handle drops

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Louisiana Downs, which raced 22 more dates at its meet this year than last, experienced a decline in average daily handle from last year, when betting on its races surged. Purses and handle on incoming simulcasts were up over 2003.

During the 102-date meet that ended Sunday, Louisiana Downs handled an average of $2,016,575 a day on its races, a 19 percent decline from last year, when daily handle on the track's races was up 11 percent to $2,499,708 in an 80- day meet. Offsite handle on Louisiana Downs races averaged about $1.9 million a day, said Ray Tromba, general manager of Louisiana Downs.

"Last year," said Tromba, "we ran considerably more races per card than we did this year. Last year, we ran almost virtually all 12-race cards. This year we did not, obviously, with 102 days."

Tromba also noted that Louisiana Downs, which opened six weeks earlier this year, was in a more competitive spot on the calendar. The meet opened in May.

Purses for the first 82 days of the meet averaged $200,000 a day, about the same as last year, while the track paid out approximately $150,000 a day during the final 20 days of the meet, up from the $137,000 a day paid out during the fall portion of the season in 2003.

Tromba said handle on incoming simulcasts was up 10 percent this meet over last year, to approximately $250,000 a day. Attendance figures are not available because the track operates a slots casino and there is no charge to enter.

Cole Norman won his seventh consecutive training title with 111 victories and earnings of $1,481,209. Lonnie Meche won his second riding title at the track with 158 wins and mount earnings of $2,390,166. The leading owner for the second year in a row was Steve Asmussen.