04/25/2008 12:00AM

Sunland's average handle rises


Sunland Park closed out its 77-date mixed meet for Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses on Tuesday with a 5.5 percent increase in average daily handle, and attendance figures on par with the corresponding 79-date meet a year ago. Sunland, the New Mexico track and slots casino located near El Paso, Texas, opened its race meet on Dec. 12.

The track handled an average $812,524 a day on its live races from all sources this meet, up 5.5 percent from $769,911 a year ago. Of the total handle, an average $708,747 a day was bet on Sunland's races offtrack, up 7.5 percent from the average $659,518 a year ago. Ontrack, handle on Sunland's races averaged $103,777 a day, a 5.9 percent decline from last meet's average of $110,393.

Attendance this meet averaged 3,670, a bit more than a 1 percent drop from 3,724 last season. Purses at the meet averaged $262,900 a day, while the track averaged 9.2 starters per race.

"Considering the current economic issues and pressure on disposable income, we are very pleased with this past season," said Harold Payne, the track's general manager.

Ken Tohill won the Thoroughbred riding title at Sunland for the fifth straight meet, with 72 wins and mount earnings of $1,487,250. Chris Hartman was the leading Thoroughbred trainer for the second straight season, with 44 wins and stable earnings of $880,620. The leading Thoroughbred owner was Blackhawk Stables.

The Quarter Horse titles went to jockey Ricky Ramirez, trainer Wes Giles, and owner Armando Orozco.

The horse of the meet was Liberty Bull, who won the $600,000 WinStar Derby.