Updated on 09/17/2011 9:49AM

Gate, handle soar for both Sunshine Millions host tracks


ARCADIA, Calif. - A massive investment in promotions for Saturday's Sunshine Millions programs at Gulfstream Park and Santa Anita led to sizeable gains in attendance and handle at both tracks over the corresponding days in 2002.

Of the two venues, Santa Anita had the highest all-sources handle - $19,543,272 on a 10-race program, a 39 percent increase over the the final Saturday in January last year, when Santa Anita handled $14,045,922.

Attendance and handle at Gulfstream Park showed healthy gains on Saturday. The ontrack crowd of 18,719 was an increase of 2,391 over 2002. The all-sources handle of $15,777,460 on the 11-race card was a gain of $3.8 million, or 32 percent.

Santa Anita on Saturday drew an ontrack crowd of 17,108. The total was higher than the 11,191 from the same day in 2002 but less than the pre-event estimate of 18,000 to 20,000 set by management.

The increase failed to offset a significant drop in attendance from the Jan. 20 holiday program. In 2002, the Martin Luther King Day program drew 18,808, helped by a merchandise giveaway. This year, the attendance was only 8,544 on a day without a giveaway.

Each track hosted four races in the $3.6 million Sunshine Millions series for California-breds and Florida-breds.

Magna Entertainment, the owner of both tracks, contributed $1.2 million to purses and spent significant sums on promotion through the purchase of one hour of television on NBC, advertising, and ontrack events that ranged from merchandise giveaways to bikini contests.

Jim McAlpine, the chief executive officer of Magna Entertainment, said the event will undergo substantial review in coming weeks, with changes possible in 2003 regarding race format and scheduling.

One idea that may be considered is having a day of racing at one venue in January and at another in February, McAlpine said.

"It depends on everyone's input," he said. "We'll look at what we learned today and what we can apply."

The individual races offered will also come under review. The eight races had large fields, with the exception of the Dash for 3-year-olds, which drew only seven runners at Gulfstream Park.