01/02/2003 1:00AM

Simulcasts boost Hawthorne

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During its fall-winter meet, which ended Jan. 1, Hawthorne Race Course posted strong gains in handle that were tied directly to interstate simulcasting on the track's races, which averaged a healthy 9.61 starters.

While average daily ontrack wagering on Hawthorne rose only 2.4 percent from comparable days in 2001 ($232,537, up from $227,102), daily wagering from out-of-state sources rose dramatically, from an average of $1,781,544 in 2001 to $2,158,724 this season. It was that 21.2-percent increase, combined with an increase of less than 1 percent in intrastate handle, that fueled Hawthorne's big jump in average daily handle on live races this year, which rose 15.6 percent, from $2,468,519 to $2,854,176.

Despite running through several spells of cold winter weather, Hawthorne never lost much training time this winter, and horsemen responded to a condition book filled mainly with claiming and maiden races.

Chris Emigh scored his second Hawthorne riding title, beating Larry Sterling 46 wins to 39. Trainer Mike Reavis started the meet with an amazing run and topped the trainer standings with 34 wins.

Racing returns to Hawthorne in March, much earlier than usual. Hawthorne and Sportsman's Park begin a loose merger of their operations this year, and with the Sportsman's facility now defunct, all races on Chicago's West Side will be run at Hawthorne.