11/15/2004 12:00AM

Meadowlands handle up


The Meadowlands Racetrack ended its 2004 Thoroughbred meet Saturday night with increases in ontrack and combined handle while experiencing a slight decline in attendance.

The 32-date meet saw the total handle wagered on Meadowlands races improve 5.7 percent over last year to average $2,204,704 daily. Ontrack handle on Meadowlands cards improved 2.7 percent to $418,276. Attendance, however, dipped 3 percent to 4,113.

This was the first season of a four-year, $86 million deal struck with New Jersey's casino industry that boosted purses to $300,000 a day. It also enabled The Meadowlands to bring back three graded stakes that were dropped in last year's budget crunch.

Stewart Elliott, who rode Smarty Jones to victory in the Preakness and Kentucky Derby, returned to New Jersey this year and won his first Meadowlands riding title with 37 victories. Joe Bravo and apprentice Rajiv Maragh tied for second with 28.

Patricia Farro became the first woman to win a Meadowlands training title, sending out 11 winners.