04/23/2007 12:00AM

Liebau determined to attract crowds


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Hollywood Park's synthetic track has proven popular with owners and trainers since it was installed last summer. The track has a full barn area and had a successful seven-week meeting last fall.

What Hollywood Park needs is an audience.

Increasing attendance is a priority at the spring-summer meeting that begins on Wednesday, track president Jack Liebau said.

At the 2006 spring-summer meeting, the ontrack attendance averaged 6,148, a drop of 16.3 percent from the 64-day meeting in 2005. Liebau said that a new admission system, which offered a more accurate crowd count, was installed prior to the meeting last summer.

Hollywood Park is spending more money on promotions this year in an effort to boost attendance.

"We'll keep trying," he said. "We've got a bigger marketing budget and we'll try some new things in the area of TV commercials for Friday nights. We're optimistic. Our barn area is full. We hope to extend the momentum from our last meet. I think it's a go."

On some major days last summer, the ontrack attendance was disappointingly low. The Hollywood Gold Cup program drew a crowd of only 8,308. Only 14,460 attended the races last May 6 for a program that included a simulcast of the Kentucky Derby.

Of the top 25 crowds at Southern California tracks in 2006, none were at Hollywood Park. The top-crowd list was dominated by days at Santa Anita's winter-spring meeting, Del Mar, and the Oak Tree at Santa Anita meeting.

While attendance was soft, handle was strong. All-sources handle at the 2006 spring-summer meeting grew by 1 percent from 2005, to $10.4 million. During the fall meeting, Hollywood Park was able to offer a retroactive purse payment at the conclusion of the meeting and carried forward approximately $400,000 in purses for the fall meeting later this year.

Hollywood Park officials will know in late June and early July whether their promotions are working. Three of Hollywood Park's biggest races are within a week during that span. The $750,000 Hollywood Gold Cup is Juneo30, the $1 million CashCall Mile is on July 6, and the $750,000 American Oaks is July 7.

Liebau acknowledged that it may be difficult to attract large crowds for the CashCall Mile and American Oaks on consecutive days.

"We have to do it that way so that people will bring horses for both races," he said. "We've never been afraid to take risks. This is something new. We hope to carry it on."

Declan's Moon to run Thursday

Declan's Moon, the champion 2-year-old male of 2004, starts in a 6o1/2-furlong optional claimer at Hollywood Park on Thursday.

Declan's Moon is winless in five starts since returning from injury last summer. He finished seventh and fifth in two races in January, which led trainer Ron Ellis to order "every test imaginable" to check on the 5-year-old gelding's condition. After being given a clean bill of health, Declan's Moon resumed training in February and has worked quickly in recent weeks at Hollywood Park.

Owned by Mace and Samantha Siegel, Declan's Moon has won half of his 10 starts and $651,300. The highlights of his championship season in 2004 were wins in the Del Mar Futurity and Hollywood Futurity.

Get Funky's next still undecided

Get Funky, scratched from Saturday's San Simeon Handicap when the race was taken off the turf, will start in a graded turf stakes this Saturday. Trainer John Sadler has yet to decide whether the 4-year-old will race at Hollywood Park or Golden Gate Fields. Sadler said he is leaning toward Saturday's $100,000 Inglewood Handicap at 1 1/16 miles on turf at Hollywood instead of the $300,000 San Francisco Mile at Golden Gate Fields.

Get Funky won the Grade 2 Del Mar Derby last September, the lone stakes win in his nine-race career.

On Sunday, Get Funky worked six furlongs in 1:13.40 at Hollywood Park.

"He galloped out a mile in about 1:39 and change," Sadler said. "We're in pretty good shape."

The other leading contenders for the Grade 3 Inglewood are After Market, Red Fort, and Willow O Wisp.

Jockey Alex Solis will ride After Market, but he will not ride the first three days of the Hollywood Park meeting. He traveled to Panama this week to be with his mother, who was scheduled to undergo surgery.

Fermo Cambianica dies at 79

Fermo Cambianica, who began writing about Southern California horse racing for Los Angeles-area newspapers in 1955, died Saturday of cancer at a local convalescent hospital, according to friends. Cambianica was 79.

A popular figure at Santa Anita, a track he considered his headquarters, Cambianica wrote about Quarter Horse and Thoroughbred racing for the Long Beach Press-Telegram in recent years.

Cambianica intended to retire from handicapping at the end of the Santa Anita meeting this spring, but was hospitalized in late March.

Cambianica worked in various aspects of racing. He was publicity director at Los Alamitos in the 1960's, and worked as a mutuel clerk in the 1980's and early 1990's.

An Army veteran, Cambianica attended Long Beach State in the early 1950's, where he was a point guard on the basketball team despite his 5-foot, 4-inch height.

In recent years, he focused on producing selections on Quarter Horse and Thoroughbred races in Southern California. Cambianica last attended the races at Santa Anita on April 18. A race was named in celebration of his career and more than 50 of his friends filled the winner's circle in his honor.

Cambianica is survived by two brothers.