10/30/2006 12:00AM

Ontrack handle up


ARCADIA, Calif. - Attendance and ontrack handle figures showed an increase at the 26-day Oak Tree at Santa Anita meeting that concluded on Sunday. The five-week meeting had an average attendance of 9,125, an increase of 5 percent over the 31-day meet in 2005, according to figures released by the track. The track announced that ontrack handle was $2 million per day, a 1 percent increase from 2005.

Average all-sources handle for the meeting, including interstate simulcasts, reached $7,928,544, according to figures released on a daily basis. The corresponding average last year was $8,065,298, 1.7 percent higher.

Business comparisons between this year's meet and 2005 are difficult to make because Oak Tree simulcast the Breeders' Cup program - a big day for attendance and handle - last year but not this year. This year, Hollywood Park will host the Breeders' Cup simulcast.

Sherwood Chillingworth, Oak Tree's executive vice-president, said he "absolutely" considered this year's meeting to be a success, but said the track "had slightly overpaid" purses.

On Saturday's California Cup Day, attendance was 25,436, a gain of 15 percent over the corresponding day last year. The track also recorded significant gains in attendance for opening day, Sept. 27; Sept. 30, a day of major Breeders' Cup preps; and on Oct. 21-22, when a carnival was added to the infield in an attempt to draw families.

"We spent a lot of money on marketing this year," Chillingworth said.

Jockey Corey Nakatani and trainer Doug O'Neill led their respective categories.

Nakatani led all jockeys with 24 winners, four more than Victor Espinoza. Nakatani scored his fourth career title at Oak Tree and his first title at any meeting since the 2004 Oak Tree meeting.

Nakatani said that riding Lava Man to victory in the Goodwood Breeders' Cup Handicap last month was highlight of the meeting.

"It was great getting back on top and riding for just about everybody," he said.

O'Neill finished with 17 winners, eight more than John Sadler.

O'Neill said that before the meeting he was concerned how the horses training on Hollywood Park's synthetic surface would handle racing at Santa Anita. Those issues turned out to be short-lived.

"I think everything has gone really well," O'Neill said. "We were in the dark on how they would run from Hollywood. We didn't know how they would be fitness-wise. It's been a good meeting."

O'Neill has been the dominant trainer in Southern California this year. He won training titles earlier this at the Santa Anita winter-spring and Del Mar meetings and finished second at the Hollywood Park spring-summer meeting.

Lava Man, trained by O'Neill, was voted Horse of the Meeting.