09/10/2002 12:00AM

Sam Houston handle off slightly

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DALLAS - Sam Houston Race Park closed out its 42-night Quarter Horse meet Saturday with small declines in average daily attendance and handle from the corresponding meet a year ago. Average daily purses at the Houston oval rose, though, to $84,658.

Attendance this meet dropped less than 1 percent, to an average of 4,197 patrons a card, while nightly handle on the track's races dipped 3 percent, to $705,791. Purses were up nearly 4 percent from last year's daily average of $81,783.

Officials said inclement weather on key race dates, including a tropical storm on the final weekend of the meet when the track's richest race of the season was run, affected attendance. The high point of the meet was the all-time high crowd of 24,124 the track drew for racing and fireworks on July 4.

Janet VanBebber won the Sam Houston training title over Toby Keeton with 34 victories and stable earnings of $264,753. The meet's leading rider was J.R. Ramirez, who won 42 races at Sam Houston and whose mounts earned $472,190. The richest race of the meet, the Grade 1, $314,500 Sam Houston Futurity, was won by Shiney Sign.

Sam Houston opens for a Thoroughbred meet on Nov. 1.