12/20/2010 1:35PM

Handle, attendance decline at Hollywood's fall meet

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. – Hollywood Park’s seven-week fall meeting ended on Sunday with a decline in average ontrack and all-sources mutuel handle, and ontrack attendance, according to figures released by the racetrack.

The meeting ended prematurely with the cancellation of the Sunday program after two races when jockeys deemed the course unsafe after substantial rainfall. The fall meeting marked the conclusion of three months of racing at Hollywood comprising consecutive meetings – the Oak Tree at Hollywood meet from Sept. 28 to Oct. 31, followed by the Hollywood fall meeting from Nov. 4 through Sunday.

The track reported a 4.2 percent decline in average daily all sources handle, to $8.015 million from $8.362 million in 2009. Daily ontrack handle dropped by 2.1 percent from last year. Boosted by the simulcast of the two-day Breeders’ Cup from Churchill Downs, the track reported an 8 percent increase in average daily handle generated in Southern California from all sources, to $4.187 million from $3.875 million in 2009. Last year, Hollywood Park did not offer simulcasting on the Breeders’ Cup, which was conducted across town at Santa Anita. Ontrack attendance dropped less than 1 percent, the track reported.

Track president Jack Liebau expressed frustration at a drop in average starters per race during the fall meet. The 29-day meeting had an average of 7.29 starters per race, compared with 7.53 during a 27-day fall meeting in 2009.

“It went as well as I expected,” Liebau said. “I would have liked to have had more support at the entry box. Our fields were short and I find that to be very discouraging.

“You have to look at the economy in California, with 12 percent unemployment. In the area around Hollywood Park, it was higher than that.”

Liebau said Hollywood Park would like to have a schedule in 2011 that is similar to this year’s. The California Horse Racing Board has granted Hollywood a spring-summer meeting from April 20 through July 17, and a fall meeting from Nov. 9 through Dec. 18. But dates for the autumn are uncertain. The California Horse Racing Board has not assigned racing dates for the six-week period from Sept. 28 through Nov. 6 – the traditional time of the Oak Tree meeting. Oak Tree has committed to running its 2011 meeting at Hollywood Park, with the possibility of relocating to Del Mar in the future. Santa Anita also has expressed an interest in running its own meet during those dates. The board is expected to address the issue at its Jan. 20 meeting.

Hollywood Park’s parent company, the Bay Meadows Land Co., has said the track will be closed in the future for development, but the track will operate through 2011, Liebau said.

“We are committed to run in 2011,” he said.

Doug O’Neill won the training title with 16 wins from 104 starters, two more than John Sadler, who had 54 starters, and Peter Miller (35 starters).

La Canada Stables led all owners with eight wins.

Joel Rosario won his third riding title of the year, finishing with 47 winners, 12 more than runner-up Rafael Bejarano. Rosario won riding titles at the Hollywood Park spring-summer and Del Mar meetings. Bejarano won titles earlier this year at the Santa Anita winter-spring and Oak Tree meetings.

The Miller-trained Comma to the Top was named horse of the meet, with three stakes wins, including the Grade 1 CashCall Futurity last Saturday.