11/16/2001 1:00AM

Ontrack, offtrack handle rise for second consecutive season

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FORT ERIE, Ont. - For the second consecutive year, Fort Erie had significant gains in both ontrack and offtrack mutuel handle. The 116-day season ended Tuesday.

Ontrack wagering totaled $20,212,100, up 11 percent from last year's $18,303,198. There was $73,540,917 bet offtrack, a 28 percent jump from $57,684,820.

Last year, the first full season 1,200 slot machines were in place at the track, wagering had increased 9 percent ontrack and 37 percent offtrack.

The growing handle led to an extension of eight racing days to the 2001 season. It was originally scheduled to end on Oct. 30. Next year, plans call for a schedule of 118 days.

Purse money paid was $19,705,980, up from $11,921,000 last year for a daily average of approximately $170,000. In pre-slot 1998, purse distribution was $50,000 a day.

Chris Griffith captured the jockeys title with 128 wins, 48 more than runner-up Brian Bochinski. Last year's champion, Cory Clark, finished third.

Layne Giliforte, for the fourth consecutive season, led the trainers. He was followed by Chris Tuttle and Mike Newell.

Bruno Schickedanz was leading owner for the fifth consecutive time.

Griffith, Giliforte, and Schickedanz were honored for their leading roles at Fort Erie's 2001 awards ceremony Thursday evening.

Monique Dionne received the leading apprentice jockey award while Griffith was chosen as outstanding jockey by his peers and Don MacRae voted outstanding trainer by his peers.

Deputy Carson was named horse of the year and top male sprinter while Storm Cruiser was honored as both the best claim and top distance male of the meeting.

Other honorees were Best of the Duck, male claimer; Hard Case, male turf horse; Bay Lake Bound, female claimer; Ellesmere, female turf horse; Prospective Gal, female distance horse; and Everything, female sprinter.