04/16/2009 12:00AM

Oaklawn handle up for '09 meet

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Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Ark., bucked widespread national trends in racing by registering a 4.6 percent increase in average daily handle on its races during the 54-day meet that ended last Saturday, according to figures supplied by the racetrack.

Average daily handle was $3,576,914, compared with last year's average daily handle figure of $3,419,235, according to the figures. Overall, handle on Oaklawn's live races this year was $193,153,358, compared to $181,219,455 last year, an increase of 6.6 percent.

Eric Jackson, Oaklawn's general manager, credited "cooperative weather" and the track's average field size of 9.3 horses per race for the increases. Last year, average field size at the track was 8.81. All else being equal, a one-horse increase in field size generally results in a 10 percent gain in handle.

Handle on Oaklawn's races in the simulcast market reflected the preference bettors have for large fields. Overall, out-of-state bettors wagered $145,448,217 on the track's races, an increase of 8.25 percent over last year.

Most racetracks are experiencing double-digit declines in handle this year because of the effects of the recession in the United States Overall, handle this year on U.S. Thoroughbred races has declined 9.35 percent through the first three months of the year.

Ontrack at Oaklawn, handle figures were nearly identical to last year, with average ontrack handle at $883,429. Last year, ontrack handle dropped 4.3 percent compared to the 2007 meet.

Attendance was also even with last year. The average was 11,546, a 0.5 percent increase over the average crowd of 11,480 last year.