Handle, Attendance Fall at Sam Houston

Sam Houston Race Park concluded its 84-day meet April 1 with decreases in attendance, average daily live handle, and total all-sources handle.

Average daily attendance at the west Houston racetrack fell 12.6% to 2,955, and the average daily live handle fell 11.2% to $164,214. The total all-sources handle dropped 8.4% to $212,445,660, down from $231,878,700 a year ago.

Increases in purses and the on-track simulcast handle provided a couple bright spots in the meet's statistics. The average daily purse rose 3.1% to $102,163, up from an average $99,078 paid during the 1999-2000 meet. Patrons at Sam Houston wagered 4.7% more on simulcast races for an average of $433,598 per day compared with an average $414,157 wagered during last year's meet.

Sam Houston Park's biggest stakes race, the $200,000 John Connally Breeders' Cup Turf, was well received. The night of the race drew 8,284 fans, which was an 8% increase from last year. The 10-race card generated $3,314,228 in on-track and off-track handle, which was a 16% increase from the previous year.

Other highlights of the meet included a reduction in the Pick 3 takeout from 25% to 12%. The lower takeout did increase wagering. Before Feb. 1, the Pick 3 averaged $6,084 per day. After lowering the takeout, the average daily handle rose to $12,413.

Leaders for the meet were owner P & D Stables, trainer Todd Meachum, and jockey Steve Bourque. The leading horse of the meet was Captain Countdown who won the Sam Houston Sprint Stakes and the Jersey Village Stakes. He was also named the champion Texas-bred. Other top runners included Kentucky Derby (gr. I) contender Fifty Stars, who was named top 3-year-old; Louetta, who was named champion filly/mare; and Candid Glen, who was turf champion.

Live racing returns to Sam Houston June 29 when the track's Quarter horse meet begins. The 2001-02 Thoroughbred meet begins Nov. 2.