04/13/2005 12:00AM

Sam Houston handle drops


Sam Houston Race Park closed out its 69-night Thoroughbred meet Sunday with a decline in average daily handle and attendance from the corresponding fall-winter meet in 2003-04, but an increase in average daily purses.

Handle on Sam Houston's races averaged $1,769,035 a night this meet, a decline of 8.5 percent from $1,933,257 a year ago. Of that, an average of $1,653,730 was bet offtrack, down 8.6 percent from last year's off-site handle of $1,809,447.

Attendance this meet averaged 2,939 a night, down 3.6 percent from 3,048 in 2003-04.

Martha Claussen, a spokeswoman for Sam Houston, said the decline in business "just fuels our desire" to try to get video lottery terminals legalized at Texas tracks, as they have been in neighboring Louisiana and New Mexico.

Daily purses at the meet averaged $118,764, up from last meet's $104,485.

Steve Asmussen won his fifth training title at Sam Houston with 56 wins, and he also captured the owner title with 15. Quincy Hamilton was the leading rider with 88 wins, and the horse of the meet was three-time stakes winner Native Annie.