04/11/2016 10:46AM

Attendance up, handle down slightly at Santa Anita meet


ARCADIA, Calif. – Santa Anita finished its 63-day winter-spring meeting Sunday with a gain in attendance and declines in ontrack and all-sources handle.

Nate Newby, the track’s vice president of marketing, said attendance rose 8 percent at the meeting. All-sources handle, which includes simulcasting venues and account wagering, was down 1 percent, while ontrack handle fell 3 percent.

The track did not release extensive business figures after Sunday’s program.

The meeting ended more than two months earlier than the corresponding meetings in 2014 and 2015, when the season continued until the end of June. This year, Los Alamitos is running a three-week meeting from Thursday to May 1. Santa Anita will have a spring-summer meeting from May 5 to July 10. In the last two years, Los Alamitos ran a brief meeting in early July.

This is the first year since Hollywood Park closed in late 2013 that Santa Anita will have two meetings in the first six months of the year separated by the brief Los Alamitos meeting. The first days of the spring-summer meeting will feature simulcasts of the Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby programs at Churchill Downs on May 6-7.

“I think we can gain momentum right away because of the Triple Crown,” Newby said. “We expect a big weekend with the Kentucky Derby.”

The winter-spring meeting began Dec. 26 with the highest attendance of the meeting, 44,873, and meet-high ontrack handle of $3,507,248. Last Saturday’s Santa Anita Derby program had all-sources handle of $19,922,378, the highest of the meeting.

Saturday’s 12-race program was run on a rainy afternoon and drew a crowd of 27,821. Newby said weather conditions cost the track approximately 15,000 fans. A dry day could have reversed the declines in handle figures, he said.

“With a strong Derby day, we would have been close,” he said.

Field size was down slightly, averaging 8.10 runners per race. Last year, the track averaged 8.33 runners per race during a similar time frame.

On the racetrack, Phil D’Amato won his first training title with 41 wins, seven more than Doug O’Neill. D’Amato, who began training two years ago after taking over a stable from trainer Mike Mitchell, led all trainers with eight stakes wins, two more than Bob Baffert.

Rafael Bejarano was the runaway winner of the riding title with 74 wins, his fourth consecutive title at a Santa Anita winter meeting. Flavien Prat, who returned to riding in December after suffering a back injury last September, finished second with 51 wins.

Pete and Kosta Hronis led all owners with 12 wins.

Songbird, the undefeated champion 2-year-old filly of 2015, was named the horse of the meeting. The winner of seven races in her career, Songbird won three stakes at the winter-spring meeting, including the Grade 1 Santa Anita Oaks on Saturday.