05/06/2010 11:00PM

Turf Paradise average daily handle up


Turf Paradise weathered the storms, literally and figuratively, at its recently ended meet.

Despite the figurative storm - a tough economy - the Phoenix track concluded its long seven-plus-month meeting May 2 more than holding its own with handle. All-sources total handle on Turf Paradise races was down just under 1 percent, but because of fewer racing days the average daily all-sources handle was up 5.3 percent.

The literal storm came in the shape of one of the wettest winters on record. The meet was slated for 155 days but actually saw just 147 live racing programs, as eight cards were scrapped because of severe weather.

Out-of-state handle on the track's live product was up 0.8 percent, with the daily out-of-state average up 6.2 percent because of fewer race days.

"A few innovations helped us," said the track's president and general manager, Eugene Joyce. "We renovated the turf course, allowing us to race 20 percent more grass races. Nine new in-state OTB's were opened. Field size was up a half-horse to 8.4 starters per race. And we introduced twilight racing on the five Fridays of April, which brought in an entirely new market to racing."

Ry Eikleberry won his second consecutive rider's title with 152 victories, 16 more than his winning total last season. Wilson Dieguez finished second with 107 wins.

Mike Chambers repeated also, winning his second trainer's title with 62 wins. Last season Chambers dead-heated with Keith Bennett at 72 victories apiece. Bennett finished second this season with 49 victories.

Dennis Weir joined the repeater club, winning his 15th owner's title with 31 victories, 10 more than Patricia McPeek (21).

The 3-year-old filly Tornado Betty was voted Horse of the Meet.

The Arizona racing circuit gets a brief break before action moves to Yavapai Downs in Prescott Valley in Northern Arizona. That meet commences May 29 and runs through Sept. 7. Live racing returns to Turf Paradise Oct. 1.