07/31/2001 11:00PM



The Thistledown meeting, second of the four meetings which make up the racing season at Thistledown, ended last Sunday, but calculating the pluses or minuses is not cut and dried.

This year's average attendance for 60 days was 3,771, down 3 percent from a year ago. The daily average on-track handle was down 10 percent to $197,257.

At first glance, the numbers are not too pretty until you take into consideration that the centerpiece of the Thistledown racing season, the Grade 2 $300,000 Ohio Derby, which traditionally been run during this meeting, has moved to Sept. 29 this year. So its figures are missing from the equation.

Last year, the Ohio Derby drew 13,637 fans and they bet $2,492,497. That number averages out to about $40,000 a day over the course of the meet, which would have put this year's average handle at about $237,000, or an increase from last year's $218,990.

The attendance figures would also have shown a gain.

When the Ohio Derby is run during the current Randall meeting, the Randall numbers will reflect a dramatic rise.

* Gary Lee Johnson won another training title when he saddled 3l winners from 158 starters, seven more than Andy Konkoly, who had 24 winners from just 68 starters. Johnson is having one of his best years. He has saddled 101 winners for the year, compared to 139 for all of 2000. With five months of racing remaining he should easily top that figure.

Luis Gonzalez won his first riding title when he booted home 57 winners, seven better the Mike Rowland.