07/08/2007 11:00PM

Small dip in Churchill's daily handle


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - While average daily all-sources handle dipped 3 percent from corresponding dates last year, ontrack numbers were encouraging at the 52-day spring meet that ended Sunday at Churchill Downs.

The average daily handle from all sources on live Churchill races was $11.1 million, down from $11.4 million at the 57-day meet last year, but ontrack handle was up 6 percent and attendance was up 5 percent on daily averages of $1.86 million and 12,994.

The fewer number of 2007 dates, combined with the lower per-day average, resulted in a gross all-sources handle decline of nearly $75 million, from $652.6 million in 2006 down to $577.8 million this spring. Churchill officials attributed a major part of the lower total to a shift from its prime account-wagering services from Youbet and Television Games Network to the new company-owned Twin Spires service. After years of Churchill races being televised on TVG, action was carried for the first time this spring on Horse Racing TV.

Churchill officials have said a wagered dollar is worth more to the track and horsemen through Twin Spires because it eliminates a middle-man element.

"It is important to understand that we manage our business based on revenue and profitability," Churchill's president, Steve Sexton, said in a prepared statement.

Purse and field-size comparisons to last spring were not immediately made available.

On the racetrack, Julien Leparoux won his second straight spring-meet title by riding 70 winners, 14 more than Rafael Bejarano. Steve Asmussen set a record for trainers by sending out 46 winners, while owner Maggi Moss won her first Churchill title with 18 winners. Moss became the first woman to win a Churchill title outright since Sharon Hild in 1976.

As usual, the meet highlight was the Kentucky Derby. Street Sense won the 133rd running by 2 1/4 lengths over Hard Spun.