12/21/2009 1:00AM

Hollywood figures down but not disastrous


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Hollywood Park completed its 27-day fall meeting on Sunday with a drop in average all-sources handle and ontrack handle, track president Jack Liebau said.

The track did not release detailed attendance and handle figures after Sunday's program, but track officials said that overall handle was down 4.3 percent, to approximately $7.8 million, and that ontrack handle was down 11 percent, to $935,000. Average ontrack attendance was down 3 percent, according to Liebau.

Liebau said he anticipated a decline in major business categories.

"I think we did a little better than I thought we'd do," Liebau said.

"We got through the meet without a purse cut. I wish the numbers had been better."

Before the start of the meeting, purses for some overnight races were cut approximately 5 to 10 percent, while purses for some categories were not changed. The meeting showed a slight decline in average starters per race, from 7.73 in 2008 to 7.53 this year.

Liebau said he is hopeful business will be better in 2010 than in the last year.

"Hopefully, the economy improves and we can get our purses up a little bit in California by operating our various funds more efficiently than in the past," Liebau said.

He said additional purse money could come from sources such as a region-wide stabling and vanning fund; the California marketing committee, which is a fund for promotions; the workers' compensation fund; and a participation fee that pays a minimum of $400 to each starter in a non-stakes race. Any changes to those funds would need the approval of a variety of organizations, including racetracks and horsemen's organizations.

Liebau said he was especially keen on possibly ending the participation fee.

"Maybe the money going to that should be added to purses," he said. "There are things that need to be examined. We need to make an effort to get our purses up."

On the racetrack, John Sadler led all trainers with 15 wins, one more than Bob Baffert, who won five races in the final two days. Sadler, 53, won three titles in Southern California this year, including the Santa Anita winter-spring meeting and Del Mar.

Joel Rosario led all riders with 37 wins, six more than Joe Talamo, who missed the second week of December to ride in Hong Kong. For the 24-year-old Rosario, the title was his third of the year, preceded by titles at the Hollywood Park spring-summer and Del Mar meetings.

Ventura, the winner of the Matriarch Stakes in November, was voted horse of the meeting. She made the final start of her career in the Matriarch before being retired to be bred. Lookin at Lucky won the Grade 1 CashCall Futurity on Saturday to make a strong case for the 2-year-old Eclipse Award, while Blind Luck ran away with the Grade 1 Starlet on Sunday, closing day.

Ventura's most recent trainer, Humberto Ascanio, was voted trainer of the meeting. Ascanio took over a stable from the late Hall of Fame trainer Bobby of Frankel after his death on Nov. 16.