Wagering Up Slightly at Turf Paradise Meet

Turf Paradise's 49th season of racing ended Sunday, with the Phoenix, Arizona track reporting a 2% across-the-board increase in wagering during the 160-day stand (seven days of racing were cancelled due to extreme weather).

The track reported in-state handle rose 2% over previous year to a new record $146 million. Out-of-state handle also rose 2% to $183 million, producing a 2% increase in total handle of $329 million. New record in-state handles were set in both the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) and Preakness Stakes (gr. I), of $2.9 million and $2.3 million, respectively.

While in-state OTB attendance rose 2%, overall attendance tipped the 800,000 mark for the fifth straight year to hold even with 2004.

"A tremendous meet," said track owner Jerry Simms. "A 2% increase in all sources handle; over $329 million wagered."

Turf Paradise's 50th anniversary season will offer 165 days of live racing, from Sept. 30, 2005 through May 21, 2006.

Wilson Dieguez, 31, of Guatemala won his first rider's title, with 127 victories. Apprentice Kyle Kaenel, 17, recovering from a riding injury suffered in April, finished second with 106 wins.

The father-son team of owner Bill Bainum's Buddy Lee Racing Stable and trainer son, Troy, swept their divisions with 46 wins and 68 victories, respectively. Runner-up Eric Kruljac finished second in the trainer's standings just two shy of Troy with 66 tallies.

Harry Aleo's Lost in the Fog and Dennis Weir's Muir Beach swept three divisional awards each, including being voted co-winners of the horse of the meet title.

Balustrade went wire-to-wire to win the $50,000 Hasta la Vista Handicap, the traditional closing-day card feature. Patiently handled by Tony Farina, Balustrade ($8.20) posted slow early fractions – :54.84 for the half-mile and 1:49.43 for a mile – before finishing the 1 7/8-mile turf race in 3:16.76, the second slowest running since 1983.