04/19/2007 11:00PM

Oaklawn handle declines

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Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Ark., experienced a 17.3 percent decline in average daily handle on its live races during the 52-date meet that ended April 14, according to figures provided by the track.

The decline was attributable to a drop of almost 30 percent in average offtrack business from a 53-day meet in 2006, when Oaklawn benefited from the closing of Fair Grounds in New Orleans because of Hurricane Katrina.

Meanwhile, handle on Oaklawn's races ontrack was up 25.1 percent.

Oaklawn handled an average $3,718,588 a day on its races from all sources this meet, compared with $4,501,415 in 2006. An average of $2,453,617 was handled offtrack, a 29.7 percent decline from last year's record daily average of $3,490,836.

Ontrack this meet, Oaklawn handled $1,264,970 a day on its races, which was up from $1,010,579 in 2006. Oaklawn also saw an increase in play on Instant Racing, the ontrack electronic parimutuel game that plays like a slot machine. The track handled an average of $1,189,981 a day on the game, up 7.1 percent from $1,111,295 in 2006.

Attendance this meet averaged 11,890 a program, down 2.2 percent from 12,161 in 2006. Officials said the number was deflated by attendance for the Arkansas Derby. Oaklawn drew a crowd of 57,937 on an unseasonably cold afternoon this year, compared with the 72,464 that turned out in 2006.

"Clearly, 2007 was a mixed bag for us," said Eric Jackson, general manager of Oaklawn. "Purses and overall handle within the four walls here at Oaklawn set new records."

Oaklawn's purses averaged close to $300,000 a day, compared with $266,036 in 2006.

Oaklawn lost four days of its meet to inclement weather, and experienced wet or unseasonably cold conditions for more than half of the weekends of its meet. The weather, as well as smaller fields and fewer races per day, were cited by track officials as contributing to the declines offtrack in 2007.

Steve Asmussen won the training title with 36 wins from 147 starts and stable earnings of $1,673,960. His chief earner was Curlin, winner of the Arkansas Derby. Luis Quinonez won the riding title with 52 wins from 292 starts for mount earnings of $1,238,200. The leading owner by wins was K.K. and Vilasini Jayaraman with 17.