12/21/2015 12:46PM

Los Alamitos business numbers a mixed bag

Benoit & Associates
Mor Spirit runs down Bob Baffert-trained stablemate Toews On Ice to win the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Futurity on Saturday.

CYPRESS, Calif. – Los Alamitos finished its 12-day winter Thoroughbred meeting on Sunday with an increase in all-sources handle but a decline in ontrack business from last year’s winter meet, according to general manager Brad McKinzie.

McKinzie said preliminary numbers indicated that total all-sources handle rose 2.3 percent, from $64,218,080 in 2014 to $65,710,345 this year. McKinzie said growth came from account-wagering sources and out-of-state simulcasting. Ontrack handle was down 10 percent, and simulcast business from satellite locations in Southern California fell 8 percent, he said.

“Anytime you can get away with being up a little bit, it’s better than being down a little bit,” he said.

The track did not release detailed business figures.

The figures reflected a yearlong trend at Los Alamitos, which conducted brief Thoroughbred meetings in July and September. This is the second year Los Alamitos has held daytime Thoroughbred meetings, taking over some racing days previously conducted at Hollywood Park, which closed in December 2013.

“It’s the same old story at all three meetings,” McKinzie said. “We’ve been up in our totals and down in Southern Cal. We make up for it in [account wagering] and out of state. Ontrack continues to be the challenge, not just for us but everybody.”

For the three-week meeting, average field size was 7.14 runners per race, compared with 7.46 runners at the December 2014 meeting.

Los Alamitos will have three meetings in 2016 – in April, September, and December. The April meeting will be a three-week season that replaces a two-week meeting previously held in July.

The April meeting will split the Santa Anita marathon meeting, which begins Saturday. Santa Anita will run its winter-spring meeting until April 10 and then race from May 5 to at least July 3. Santa Anita might race July 7-10 but has not committed to it, according to documents filed with the California Horse Racing Board.

Los Alamitos will have a two-week meeting covering eight racing days next December. The meeting is tentatively scheduled to include one of the two Grade 1 races for 2-year-olds run at Los Alamitos the last two Decembers, the Starlet and the Futurity.

McKinzie said Los Alamitos is seeking methods to fund the $300,000 Starlet Stakes for 2-year-old fillies at 1 1/16 miles. With an eight-day meeting, McKinzie said there is insufficient time to generate enough purse money to host the Starlet Stakes and the $350,000 Los Alamitos Futurity.

Discussions have taken place with officials from Santa Anita and Del Mar about one of those tracks hosting the Futurity in 2016.

McKinzie told the racing board in November that Los Alamitos would be unable to run the Starlet and Futurity, but the track has changed its outlook regarding the Starlet.

“The challenge for us is what do we do in December with two weeks instead of three?” McKinzie said. “We’re on a mission to find every dollar we can to keep the Starlet. It’s my hope that somebody can pick up [the Futurity]. It’s shown it’s an important race.”

This year’s Los Alamitos Futurity was won Saturday by Mor Spirit, giving trainer Bob Baffert a record eighth win in the race at Hollywood Park and Los Alamitos. Mor Spirit has emerged as a leading 3-year-old prospect for 2016, having finished second in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill Downs on Nov. 28.

Jockey Santiago Gonzalez led all riders at the Los Alamitos winter meeting with 14 wins, two more than runners-up Edwin Maldonado and Mario Gutierrez. A native of Venezuela, Gonzalez, 32, has ridden in Southern California in the last year. This was his first riding title on this circuit.

Doug O’Neill led all trainers with eight wins, two more than runner-up Phil D’Amato. O’Neill trains for Paul and Zillah Reddam, who led all owners with five wins.