09/26/2006 12:00AM

Fairplex handle up again


POMONA, Calif. - Although Fairplex Park has suspended pursuit of additional racing dates, the 16-day meet that ended Monday at the Los Angeles County Fair reaffirmed Fairplex as a key player on the Southern California circuit. For the second consecutive year, Fairplex surpassed its record handle by averaging more than $7.1 million daily.

The preliminary handle figure of $113,854,950 in total handle tops last year's record meet, also 16 days, by $230,756, an increase of 2 percent. The gain is largely attributed to a massive three-day carryover in the pick six into Sept. 20. The $988,445 carryover created nationwide buzz and generated a gross pick six pool of more than $3.9 million. The wager propelled Fairplex to a single-day record handle record of $10,390,081 despite falling on a Wednesday, and the momentum continued.

"We had perfect weather, full fields, and the best jockey colony we have ever had," Fairplex's equine manager, George Bradvica, said. "Everything just seemed to click."

Fairplex recently has backed away from a proposed $100 million renovation to expand the five-eighths track to one mile and add a turf course, a plan viable only with added dates.

The handle and field-size gains at Fairplex illustrate stability for the meet that bridges summer at Del Mar and the autumn Oak Tree meet at Santa Anita. The average field size this fall at Fairplex was 8.31 starters per Thoroughbred race. Fairplex runs a maximum of 10 per race.

Jeff Mullins and Doug O'Neill were the most active trainers, with a combined total of 94 starters. The victory on closing day by Selvatica in the $64,675 Bangles and Beads Stakes gave Mullins a Fairplex meet of 17 wins from 43 starters, arate of 39 percent. O'Neill, who led Fairplex the past four years, finished second with 11 wins from 51 starters.

Martin Pedroza led the Fairplex jockey standings for the eighth straight season. He rode 27 winners from 122 mounts, a 22 percent rate, and remains the track's all-time leader with 484 wins. David Cohen and Agapito Delgadillo each rode 18 winners. David Flores rode 16 winners from just 45 mounts, a meet-high 35 percent rate that included five stakes.

Favorites won 68 of the 163 Thoroughbred races, a success rate of 42 percent. Bob Bone was the leading Fairplex owner with 5 wins and earnings of $117,220 from 10 starters.