12/15/2004 12:00AM

Meet handle down from last year

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ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Total wagering was down by 2.6 percent and average daily handle down 5.5 percent from last year on Woodbine's live Thoroughbred racing for 2004. The meeting, which ended Sunday, comprised 167 days, compared to 162 last year.

Total wagering declined to $338,349,688 from $347,433,630 last year. Average daily handle was $2,026,048. A total of 33 races were lost over five cards this year. Last year, several days were canceled because of inclement weather.

The amount wagered per race, $222,306 for 1,522 races, was down fractionally from last year ($223,430 for 1,555 races).

Helped by the early closing of Fort Erie, average field size increased from 8.1 to 8.6 horses per race.

Hugh Mitchell, senior vice president of racing, said that illegal online operations were responsible for "poaching" some of Woodbine's Canadian bettors.

"The good news is, our export sales into the United States were up slightly over last year despite a stronger Canadian dollar," Mitchell said.

Woodbine's account wagering service, with a newly launched Internet wagering site and a telephone system, brought in $66 million on Woodbine's live and simulcast Thoroughbred products, up from $55 million through the same period last year.

Purse money paid out this year totaled just under $93 million, versus $96 million last year.

Todd Kabel was the runaway winner in the jockey standings at the meeting with 156 wins and $10,467,570 in mount earnings. Kabel's 36 stakes wins equaled an Ontario record set by the late Avelino Gomez in 1966. Patrick Husbands finished second in both races won, with 136, and earnings, with $7,176,362. Jim McAleney was third in both categories, with 109 winners and $5,812,431.

The trainers' race was not decided until the closing days, with Sid Attard capturing the races-won title with 73 winners, 5 more than runner-up Bob Tiller. Mark Casse was far back in third with 45 winners.

Mark Frostad was sixth in races won with 39 but led all trainers in money won with $4,343,851.

Sam-Son Farm was the top owner in money won, with $4,262,645, and finished second in races won with 37. Stronach Stable won a meet-leading 44 races and was second in money won with $2,788,557.