07/13/2008 11:00PM

Hollywood numbers show overall drop


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Hollywood Park failed to keep pace with a record 2007 spring-summer meeting this year, showing a decline of nearly 2 percent in all-sources handle at the corresponding meeting that ended on Sunday, according to preliminary figures.

The track announced that the 60-day meeting had an average all-sources handle of $11,783,585, which included ontrack wagering, inter-track wagering in California, account wagering, and handle from interstate locations. The average handle was down 1.8 percent over the record handle of $11.9 million in 2007.

Daily account-wagering handle was the lone category to show growth, reaching $2,132,108 per day, up 14 percent over 2007. Track officials said final figures for the meeting were not immediately available.

The average ontrack handle fell 9.7 percent, to $1,532,940. Betting at Southern California offtrack locations fell 10 percent, to $2.7 million.

Track officials did not expect the meeting to show growth, citing a downturn in the economy and a trend of disappointing figures at Santa Anita earlier this year.

"We did better than we were hoping," said Hollywood Park's president, Jack Liebau. "Both tracks are struggling to meet the averages of the previous year. I was disappointed with our ontrack handle."

Liebau said Hollywood Park's account-wagering business benefited from the ongoing dispute over the division of revenue from account wagering between the Thoroughbred Horsemen's Group and TrackNet, a simulcast signal venture co-owned by Churchill Downs Inc and Magna Entertainment Corp. The dispute led to a blackout of account wagering on tracks such as Churchill Downs and Calder in recent months. With those two prominent signals not being offered via account wagering, Hollywood Park's program became more attractive for bettors.

"I have to admit, as far as Hollywood Park is concerned, we were helped by the TrackNet-THG standoff," Liebau said.

Liebau said that Hollywood Park's synthetic main track will be renovated in late August, after new fiber and rubber arrives from England. The condition of the Cushion Track has been criticized in recent weeks by trainers who say the surface is not as vibrant as it was when it was installed in September 2006.

"We want to bring it back to what it was," Liebau said.

The Bay Meadows Land Co., which owns Hollywood Park, has expressed an intent to develop the property and cease racing, but track officials have committed to running through a spring-summer meet in 2009 and probably through the fall.

John Sadler, 51, won his first training title at the spring-summer meeting, finishing with 29 winners, six more than Doug O'Neill. Sadler won seven stakes, and said his highlight was the weekend of June 28-29, when his stable won three major stakes, including the Grade 2 Beverly Hills Handicap with Black Mamba.

The training title was the second for Sadler in the last three meetings in Southern California. He won the training title at the fall meeting here in 2007 and was second at the Santa Anita winter-spring meeting.

"We're going up a level," he said of his stable's direction. "It's been a lifetime of work."

Jockey Rafael Bejarano led all riders with 54 wins, 10 more than Joel Rosario. Bejarano, 26, has dominated the riders in Southern California this year, having won the title at the Santa Anita winter-spring meeting. He relocated from Kentucky last November.

Jeff Nielsen's Everest Stable led all owners with 14 wins.

Zenyatta, who won the Milady and Vanity handicaps, was voted the horse of the meeting.