Updated on 09/16/2011 7:37AM

Thistledown average handle rises

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NORTH RANDALL, Ohio - The 2001 parimutuel handle at Thistledown, including wagering on simulcasts, totaled $237,348,143, the highest in track history. The average daily all-sources handle on Thistledown's live races was $527,202, up 16 percent from 2000's $454,251. The track held 187-day meets in both years.

Track management said the increases are directly related to Thistledown's increase in field size, averaging 8.4 starters per race in 2001 versus 7.1 the year before. Another major contributing factor was that Thistledown's simulcast signal was sent more frequently to California in 2001. Thistledown, Santa Anita, Golden Gate, and Bay Meadows are all owned by Magna Entertainment.

One of the Thistledown's main goals coming into the 2001 season was to work with the new Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association board to increase field size, said William Murphy, the track's vice president and general manager.

Thistledown canceled its 2001 open stakes program, with the exception of the Grade 2, $300,000 Ohio Derby, and redirected the money to overnight races.

The ontrack live daily handle for the 2001 season, $178,903, was a drop of over 8 percent from 2000's $195,564. Daily average attendance was 3,630, up more than 1 percent.

Trainer Gary L. Johnson captured his fifth consecutive training title when he sent out 113 winners from 545 starters, topping his record 1998 season of 112 wins. Jockey Michael Rowland won his sixth riding title with 188 winners from 861 mounts.