12/03/2003 1:00AM

Meeting handle down


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Total wagering on the live Thoroughbred meeting declined by 4.4 percent this year, the Woodbine Entertainment Group announced Wednesday.

A total of $347,433,595 was wagered during the 162-day meeting, which ran five fewer days than scheduled due to four weather-related cancellations, and a day lost to the August blackout. Last year's total handle for a 166-day meeting was $363,780,210.

The average handle on the 1,543 races was $225,167, down from $233,192 on last year's 1,560 races. This year's average daily handle was $2,145,062, down from $2,191,447 for 2002.

"We're in a very competitive gaming marketplace," said Hugh Mitchell, Woodbine's senior vice president of racing. "Frankly, we have to continue to improve our Thoroughbred racing product to secure our position as a major supplier of quality Thoroughbred racing product across North America. Going forward, our focus will be pushing distribution of the product, while trying to maximize both field size and pool size."

The company also announced that wagering on all Thoroughbred products (live and simulcast) was down 1.9 percent through Nov. 30, from the comparable period in 2002. The decline was attributed in part to a cold spring, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), and the August blackout.

Purses paid out this year totaled $89.3 million, a slight decrease from the $89.7 last year. A 3-percent purse cut for all overnight races took effect Sept. 10.

Kabel ends with most wins

Todd Kabel was the meeting's leading rider, scoring 160 wins to edge runner-up Patrick Husbands, who recorded 158 wins. Kabel also topped all riders in purses won, with $11,285,507, and in stakes wins, with 29.

Bob Tiller was the leading trainer in races won, with 72; money won, with $4,030,388; and stakes won, with 15. Scott Fairlie was second in races won, with 66, while Mark Casse was runner-up in money won, with $3,307,133.

Stronach Stables was the leading owner in both races won, with 70, and purses, with $4,691,084.

Chris's Bad Boy, who won last Saturday's Kennedy Road Stakes, led all horses here in wins, with seven. Wando led all horses here in earnings, with $1,672,025.