10/22/2001 11:00PM

Small fields, reduced returns

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EDMONTON, Alberta - The 2001 Thoroughbred season came to a close last Saturday at Northlands Park and there was little to cheer about for the industry or the track administrators.

The 68-day meet generated a total handle (including simulcast and offtrack betting) of $21,551,329.00, a daily average of $316,931, down 12.7 percent from last year.

The total handle on live Northlands racing was $11,811,692, a daily average of $173,701. That number was down 5.2 percent from 2000.

Northlands had budgeted for a decrease but the numbers were disappointing.

The primary reason for the decline was small fields that limited wagering options. Right now, concerned parties can only look ahead to next year knowing a contract is in place for a 68-day meet that will begin in late June. The date for opening day has not yet been determined.

Winter finishes strong

On the positive side, jockey Perry Winters had a fantastic final week and was able to overtake Stephan Heiler in the jockey standings. The two battled down to the final race of the year with Winters winning the race in a photo over Heiler, who would have tied for the meet lead with a win. Winter finished with 72 wins.

Ron K. (Red) Smith led all trainers with 30 wins. It was another successful campaign for Smith, who also won the title at the spring meet at Stampede Park.