06/16/2009 11:00PM

Penn National purses raise to $170K daily

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Bucking a national trend that has seen racetracks request fewer racing days to combat small fields as their betting handle dwindles, Penn National Race Course has been able to raise purses once again.

The latest purse increase, which went into effect June 11, raised overnight purses to a track-record daily average of $170,000.

Purses now are almost 34 percent higher than than they were in February.

Maiden special weight races, previously worth $30,240 in the last condition book, now carry a purse of $35,360. A first-level allowance goes for $36,000 in the current condition book, up from $29,000.

"One of the major forces in making our program grow is field size," said Rob Marella, Penn National's director of racing. "Right now, we are averaging 9.3 horses per race, the highest in the mid-Atlantic area."

The big fields have resulted in more betting. Through the end of May, live ontrack handle was up more than 10 percent, and simulcast wagering on Penn National races has jumped more than 40 percent over 2008.