01/05/2005 1:00AM

Maryland handle declines

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The daily average handle from all sources decreased 2 percent on races at Pimlico and Laurel Park in 2004, even though bets placed on Maryland races from outside the state rose 4 percent, the fourth consecutive year that amount has risen, according to statistics released Tuesday by the Maryland Jockey Club, which operates both tracks.

The average daily handle from outside the state was $2,131,300 in 2004, compared with $2,047,200 in 2003. The average daily handle from all sources dropped from $3.48 million to $3.41 million.

Records were set at both of the state's marquee events of the year. A crowd of 112,688, the largest ever to attend a sporting event in Maryland, turned out for the Preakness. All-sources handle on the Preakness card was a track-record $87.9 million, surpassing the record of $71.4 million set in 2002.

The $4.6 million bet on the Oct. 9 Maryland Million program at Pimlico was a record for that event.