01/23/2006 12:00AM

Oaklawn opening handle mixed

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Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Ark., drew 56,878 patrons over its three-day opening weekend, and they bet $4,237,843 on the track's live races. Oaklawn handled another $7,312,918 offsite, bringing opening weekend handle on the track's races to $11,550,761.

The ontrack figures were about the same as last year's attendance of 56,654 and handle of $4,271,055, but handle offtrack slipped from $8,229,836 a year ago. Oaklawn was pleased with the opening, said a spokesman, Terry Wallace, with the track exceeding projections in the face of nearly three inches of rain Sunday, and a racing landscape that changed this year with Hurricane Katrina.

Fair Grounds, which normally runs into March, closed out its abbreviated meet at Louisiana Downs with eight stakes Saturday and Sunday. California outlets, which last year had taken opening weekend races from Oaklawn, instead imported races last weekend from Fair Grounds.

Saturday's crowd of 27,094 was the largest opening Saturday since 1991, when the crowd was 28,803, said Wallace.