09/18/2002 12:00AM

New schedule boosts handle

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SASKATOON, Saskatchewan - The elimination of Sunday racing and the switch to a Friday and Saturday night schedule helped to increase the daily average handle at the 2002 Marquis Downs meeting, which ended Sunday, by almost 28 percent, from $15,508 to $19,820.

The meeting was shortened from 40 days to 32 days this year so the bottom-level purses could be raised to $2,200 and attract more horsemen. The move was successful as an average 6.5 horses were entered in the seven races per day, up from 6.1 the previous year.

Although attendance figures are not kept since entry to the track is free, racing manager Doug King reports that the food and beverage operation was up about 20 percent, which shows public support for the new racing schedule.

The leading money winner was 2-year old filly Picture the Answer, whose win in the Prairie Lily Sales Stakes helped bring her 2002 earnings to $24,130.

Good Old Sprite, Ms. Lady Rose, and Smart Graustark all won five races here to lead in that category.

The race for leading trainer honors came down to the final weekend and ended with Tom Gardipy Jr. winning his third straight title with 27 wins from 78 starts, edging Fern Zdunick by two victories.

Zdunick was the meet's leading money-winning trainer with almost $79,000. Don Bjarnason was leading percentage trainer with 17 wins from just 43 starts, which put him third in the overall standings.

Serge Rocheleau won the leading jockey title for the eighth time as he racked up 53 wins from 198 mounts. Clint Magera finished second with 29 wins, while Andrew Scarlett, who missed the last month due to injury, finished third with 25 wins.