09/26/2016 9:50AM

Daily handle down about 5 percent at Los Alamitos meet


CYPRESS, Calif. – The 12-day Los Angeles County Fair meeting at Los Alamitos ended on Sunday with a decline of approximately 5 percent in all-sources daily handle, track officials said.

Although final figures will be determined later this week, Los Alamitos officials estimated that all-sources daily handle, including ontrack, out-of-state and account wagering, was $3,918,306, compared with $4,110,983 in 2015.

This was the longest September meeting in the three years since Los Alamitos began running daytime Thoroughbred racing in 2014. The 2014 September meeting ran 11 days, while last year’s meeting covered 10 days.

Track general manager Brad McKinzie said the decline in handle was in line with projections after a Del Mar summer meeting that showed business declines.

“We did what we thought we’d do,” McKinzie said. “Where we were really down was out of state. After looking at the Del Mar numbers, you couldn’t expect anything else.”

Average field size fell from 7.65 runners per race in September 2015 to 7.04 this year.

“It’s the same story – short fields and short handle,” McKinzie said. “You can dance around everything else. It’s about the product on the track. This was the toughest meet we’ve had at a fall meeting for entries.

“We had a lousy first week, got better in the second week, and our third week was best.”

McKinzie said the track lost ground with simulcast bettors around the nation because of small fields.

“Out-of-state [handle] is a function of the product you put on the racetrack,” he said. “If you put out short fields for a few days in a row, they’ll move on to something else.”

On the racetrack, Stewart Elliott, 51, was the leading jockey, winning his first riding title in Southern California. Elliott, best known for winning the 2004 Kentucky Derby on Smarty Jones, won 12 races, two more than runner-up Santiago Gonzalez.

Bob Baffert and Doug O’Neill tied for leading trainer with five wins each. O’Neill has won or tied for the lead in five of the eight daytime Thoroughbred meetings Los Alamitos has run since July 2014. Baffert has won or tied for the lead at three such meetings.

Accelerate won the meeting’s richest race, the $201,035 Los Alamitos Derby on Saturday. He is owned by Pete and Kosta Hronis and trained by John Sadler.

The next Thoroughbred meet at Los Alamitos runs Dec. 8-18. The highlight will the Dec. 10 program, which will include two Grade 1, $300,000 races for 2-year-olds – the Starlet and Futurity. The track continues its nighttime meeting of Quarter Horse and lower-level Thoroughbred racing on a year-round basis.