04/18/2005 11:00PM

Oaklawn business mixed

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Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Ark., closed out its 55-date meet Saturday with a decline in handle on its races offtrack, but increases in ontrack live handle, attendance, and purses. The average daily total all-sources handle on Oaklawn's live races this year of $4,009,099 was a decrease of 7.2 percent from last year's meet.

Oaklawn handled $2,956,970 a day on its races offtrack, a 10 percent decline from 2004. Ontrack, about $1,052,129 a day was bet on Oaklawn's races, up from last year's mark of $1,032,937.

Attendance this meet averaged 12,842 a program, up 3 percent from 2004. And purses, which were raised twice during the meet, averaged $264,424, up 8 percent from $240,874 in 2004.

The figures pleased track officials.

"I [expected] the offtrack to be down about 10 percent, with the outlets that we had to turn off," said Eric Jackson, general manager of Oaklawn. "We turned off some outlets last year that were engaged in batch betting, because we don't think that's fair to the fans across the United States, and here and other places."

Computerized batch technology allows large wagers to be placed just before betting on a race closes. Oaklawn also withheld its signal from some additional sites this year, over integrity issues, said Jackson.

Cole Norman picked up his fifth consecutive training title with 62 wins from 232 starters. He also led all stables in earnings, with $1,104,090.

Jeremy Rose secured the riding title when he won the Grade 2, $1 million Arkansas Derby on Saturday, breaking a tie with Calvin Borel. The race was one of two wins on the day for Rose. In all, he won 48 of 241 starts. Rose also had mount earnings of $1,431,230. Borel won 47 races at the meet to rank second, while John McKee led all riders in earnings with mount winnings of $1,596,410.

Michael Gill and Gary Owens tied for leading owner with 17 wins each at Oaklawn.

Owens won the final race with Tubby Cat ($13.40).

* Before a closing day crowd of 71,010, Afleet Alex won the Arkansas Derby, the same race that propelled Smarty Jones to victory in last year's Kentucky Derby. Jackson said the purse for the Arkansas Derby, which was raised to $1 million in 2004, is expected to remain at that level for 2006.