11/29/2005 1:00AM

Meet's daily handle up 8 percent


VANCOUVER, British Columbia - Handle from California bettors helped boost handle at the 2005 Hastings meet, which concluded Sunday.

Average daily all-sources handle on the races at Hastings was $848,031, an 8.3 percent increase from last year's average of $783,019. Total handle this year was $69,538,540 for 82 racing days, compared with last year's total of $54,811,328 for 70 racing days.

Part of the increase can be attributed to California betting outlets taking the Hastings card for most of the season. In 2004, California started wagering into the Hastings pool for the last few months of the season.

Average ontrack handle fell about 9 percent, to $322,490 this year from $354,224 last year.

Management at Hastings attributes the negative ontrack numbers to an expanded schedule, and to racing Friday nights in particular. Although handle dipped on Friday nights, track officials felt they were worthwhile because night racing exposing their product to a younger crowd.

Leading rider at the meet was Justin Stein with 148 wins. He also set a record for the most wins in a single season by an apprentice.

Gary Demorest won 47 races and captured his first training title.