09/22/2002 11:00PM

Mixed numbers at Rockingham

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SALEM, N.H. - Amid speculation that this will be the final season at Rockingham Park, the track closed its 2002 meet with marginal increases in total handle but declines in attendance.

Rockingham's average daily handle for the 75-day meet was $561,000 - up less than 1 point from 2001. Ontrack handle slipped nearly 8 percent, but offtrack handle for the meet rose 5 percent. Average attendance slipped 5 percent to 2,772.

Within the next two months, Rockingham ownership will make a decision on whether to hold a live Thoroughbred meet in 2003. The outcome of the November election for governor will likely play a role, as management assesses the likelihood of getting slot machines.

"We plan on returning to the legislature." said Ed Callahan, the track's general manager, "and asking for the tools we need to compete and determine whether we can continue live racing or whether we have to throw in the towel."

Joe Hampshire was leading rider with 103 wins. Trainer Ron Dandy topped the standings with 65 victories, many of which came for the Hy-Hopes Farm, the meet's leading owner by wins with 38.