09/21/2005 12:00AM

Modest gains at Arlington

Powerscourt's victory in the Arlington Million was a meet highlight.

CHICAGO - Crimped by a decision made last year by the Illinois Racing Board, Arlington Park concluded its 2005 race meet Sunday with handle and attendance figures similar to those posted in 2004.

But a 0.8 percent increase in total handle and a 3 percent increase in average daily handle actually were decent numbers, considering Arlington's purses were scaled back this season from 2004 levels. In 2004, Arlington received all the purse money generated through simulcast handle during the winter months when there's no live racing in Chicago. This year, much of that money went to Hawthorne National, which runs meets in the spring and fall, and accordingly, Arlington's average daily purses declined 7 percent, to $257,724. The track's average number of starters per race decreased 3 percent, from 8.25 in 2004 to 7.98 this year.

"What happened last year kind of brought us back to the pack," said Arlington president Cliff Goodrich, referring to the racing board's decision. "That growth clearly slowed this time around. We can't say we were devastated, but we can say that it did impinge our ability to continue to grow racing in Illinois."

Midway through its 94-day live season, Arlington was rolling, with handle figures significantly up from 2004 levels. But the momentum slowed, of all times, during the Summer Festival, the period when Arlington is supposed to offer its best racing. Purses during the Festival, however, increased only a small amount compared with previous seasons.

Total all-sources handle during the meet was $405,396,420 compared with $402,308,299 wagered over 96 days in 2004. The 2005 average daily total handle of $4,312,728 was slightly higher than last year's $4,190,711 daily average.

After a significant jump last year, average daily attendance for the 2005 season rose 0.5 percent to 7,607,

compared with 7,572 in 2004. Arlington now has posted an increase in attendance for four consecutive years.

Frank Calabrese won the owners' title for the sixth straight year, while his trainer, Wayne Catalano, eclipsed his own record for wins during the meet. After a barrage of winners during the final week, Catalano landed on a fairly remarkable 69. Shaun Bridgmohan, in his first year at Arlington, won the riding title with 132 victories.

Powerscourt won the Arlington Million a year after being disqualified from first in the same race, while Angara took the Beverly D. Handicap and Gun Salute the Secretariat Stakes.