01/04/2007 12:00AM

Maryland races jump in handle while Hawthorne is down again

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Average daily all-sources wagering at the Maryland Jockey Club's two racetracks, Laurel Park and Pimlico Racecourse, was $3.2 million in 2006, according to figures released by the MJC on Thursday, an increase of 24.9 percent.

The increase was principally because of a sizeable increase in betting on the signals from the two tracks in out-of-state locations. Average daily out-of-state handle was up 28.4 percent, to $2.85 million a day from $2.22 million a day last year, according to the figures.

Total wagering on races from the two tracks, comprising 184 racing days, was $589.1 million, up 17.9 percent compared with total wagering of $499.8 million in 2005 for 195 live racing days, according to the figures.

Total handle on out-of-state signals at the two tracks declined 6.4 percent, from $396.3 million in 2005 to $371.1 million in 2006.

In a statement, Lou Raffetto, the president and chief operating officer of the MJC, attributed the strong handle figures to the racing secretary's office, which is responsible for writing the conditions of races to attract competitive fields.

In year-end titles for the Maryland circuit, Rosie Napravnik, who is one of three nominees for an Eclipse Award for the leading apprentice in the country, took the jockey's title with 259 victories at Laurel and Pimlico over the season's four meets. Scott Lake easily took the trainer's title with 114 winners, and Robert Cole, whose horses are stabled with Lake, took the owner's title with 49 wins from 116 starts.

Hawthorne: Another decline

At Hawthorne Race Course near Chicago, ontrack handle at the recently concluded fall-winter meet took a serious hit for the second straight year, and all-sources average daily handle also dropped from 2005 levels.

Average daily ontrack wagering on live Hawthorne races declined by 13 percent from 2005 to 2006, falling to just $148,901 at the 75-day meet that ended Monday from $171,613 at the previous meet's 71 days. That 2005 figure was down 11 percent from the previous year, meaning Hawthorne has lost more than one-fifth of its ontrack handle in just two seasons. The facility was reconfigured before this meet, with nearly half the building closed off and many remaining areas turned into what the track hoped were more fan-friendly spaces.

Offtrack handle, which had risen last year, also declined this year. The average daily amount bet at Illinois offtrack betting parlors and out-of-state venues decreased about 5.7 percent, from $2,796,614 in 2005 to $2,636,203 this season. All-sources average daily handle dropped 6 percent, from $2,968,227 to $2,785,104.

Handle declines, plus ongoing overpayments in the purse account, forced an across-the-board purse cut in the final condition book, beginning in mid-December.

Hawthorne's average field size also fell by 6 percent this year, from 9.01 starters per race to 8.46. The track attributed much of this decline to fewer turf races being run in 2006.

The meet, however, was good to Chris Emigh, who easily topped the jockey standings 102 to 68 over Ramsey Zimmerman. Emigh won last year's title on the final day. Frank Kirby pulled away late to win the training title 43-34 over Tom Tomillo. Frank Calabrese - as usual - was the meet's leading owner.

- additional reporting by Marcus Hersh