07/16/2006 11:00PM

Handle up slightly, though attendance drops


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Business figures for the Hollywood Park spring-summer meeting were mixed, with attendance falling and all-sources handle showing a slight increase. The 61-day meeting began on April 26 and ended Sunday.

Average all-sources handle increased 1 percent, to $10.4 million daily. The track said it did not have detailed handle figures, but that they would be available later this week.

The all-sources handle figure did not includes betting on Hollywood Park races from northern California locations, because the track does not gain revenue for purses from those transactions, officials said.

Average attendance was 6,148, a drop of 16.3 percent from the 64-day meet in 2005. The track's president, Jack Liebau, said a new admission system was installed "that more accurately counts the crowd than what was done in the past."

The average field size was 8.1 horses, a 5 percent increase from last year. Average daily handle on Hollywood Park races was $6.5 million, a gain of 1 percent over 2005.

"I think what is encouraging is that handle on our live product is up," Liebau said.

Liebau said that Hollywood Park's owners, the Bay Meadows Land Co., continues to seek real estate entitlements to eventually develop the property. He said that racing will continue for "an indefinite basis."

"There is no denying they are continuing to move ahead to get entitlements for the property," he said. "How long will that take? No one knows. We're proceeding on two different fronts. They're moving ahead with entitlements, and we're moving ahead with racing being here on an indefinite basis."

Mullins tops trainer standings

Trainer Jeff Mullins led all trainers at the Hollywood Park spring-summer meeting with 29 winners, one more than Doug O'Neill.

Mullins says it could be the prologue for a successful fall meeting here in November and December.

After Hollywood Park installs a synthetic surface later this summer, Mullins would like to move his 80-horse stable there in the hopes of keeping his horses more sound, he said Sunday. He said his horses, some of which were based at Santa Anita and some at Hollywood, suffered from numerous injuries in the spring-summer meeting.

"It could have been better," he said of the meeting. "I lost a lot of horses, and not to the claim box."

Hollywood Park has major changes planned for the fall meeting, which begins on Nov. 1. Construction is to begin Wednesday for the installation of a synthetic surface of a material called Cushion Track. It will be the first synthetic track installed in California and will be ready for training in early September.

"I can't wait" until the synthetic surface gets here, Mullins said. "If I can get stalls, I'll bring them all."

Victor Espinoza led all riders with 60 wins, six more than Patrick Valenzuela. The title was Espinoza's first at a spring-summer meeting since 2000 and his first at any track since 2003-04 Santa Anita winter-spring meeting.