03/28/2002 12:00AM

Phone and Internet bets top $13M


ARCADIA, Calif. - Mutuel handle from telephone and Internet betting, implemented in California in late January, surpassed $13 million in mid-March, and has amounted to 3.5 percent of state handle, the California Horse Racing Board was told at its monthly meeting on Thursday.

Three companies have been approved by the CHRB to take bets via telephone and internet - Xpressbet, TVG, and Youbet.com. Xpressbet and TVG were launched in California on Jan. 25; Youbet.com started on Feb. 21 after receiving approval at the CHRB's February meeting.

According to figures released by the board, Xpressbet, a subsidiary of Magna Entertainment, leads the market with $9,258,037 in handle. Magna owns Bay Meadows, Golden Gate Fields, and Santa Anita.

TVG, which is taking bets only on the Los Alamitos Quarter Horse signal from California and out-of-state Thoroughbred races, has handled $3,309,015. Youbet, which offers a menu similar to TVG, has handled $529,827.

CHRB senior management auditor John Reagan told the board that an additional $1.5 million had been bet since March 17 and that the three hubs have accounted for 3.5 percent of the overall handle in the state. Telephone and Internet betting has generated approximately $600,000 in purses, Reagan said.

The highest phone/Internet handle was achieved on March 2 when the three services handled $556,609. Xpressbet handled a record $444,018 on March 2, fueled by a Santa Anita program highlighted by the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap.

Although recent handle has been stronger than in February, there is concern that it has stagnated, according to Ed Hannah, the general counsel for Magna. Since March 2, Xpressbet has not handled $400,000 on any day.

"The last four weeks it has stabilized," Hannah said. "We're concerned about that. We'd like to continue an upward trend."

Before the launch of telephone and Internet betting, there was fear among horsemen that it would reduce ontrack business and impact purses.

"We haven't seen any impact so far on track, but we think that will take quite awhile," said John Van de Kamp, the president of the Thoroughbred Owners of California.

In coming months, industry officials expect TVG to outperform Xpressbet.

TVG does not offer betting on Magna tracks, but has agreements with the other major California meetings - Del Mar, Fairplex Park, Hollywood Park, and Oak Tree at Santa Anita.

But as of Thursday, the TOC and TVG had not reached an agreement on a division of revenue from telephone and Internet betting for the Hollywood Park meeting, which begins on April 24.

"The hope is that we'll have an agreement," Van de Kamp told the board. "It's still open at this point."

TVG officials told the CHRB that it will expand into digital cable services in several Los Angeles-area communities on Monday, with a further expansion planned for later. Magna hopes to launch a television service in June, Hannah said.

Slow work for Came Home

, who will be favored in the $750,000 Santa Anita Derby on April 6, worked six furlongs in 1:13.40 under jockey Chris McCarron on Thursday.

"He doesn't need to work fast," trainer Paco Gonzalez said. "If you ask him, he will work fast, but I wanted Chris to go in 1:13."

Came Home has dominated the 3-year-old division at Santa Anita this winter, winning the San Vicente Stakes and San Rafael Stakes.

Gonzalez said Came Home will have one more workout - on Wednesday or Thursday - before the Santa Anita Derby. Gonzalez and Came Home's owners, John Toffan and Trudy McCaffery, won the 1997 Santa Anita Derby with Free House.

Despite his status as the top 3-year-old in California, Came Home has not scared away many participants from the West Coast's leading prep for the Kentucky Derby. As of Thursday, there were nine probables, including Easy Grades, Danthebluegrassman, Jack's Silver, Lusty Latin, Mayakovsky, Royal Gem, Tracemark, and U S S Tinosa.

Mayakovsky is also being considered for the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct on April 13, said trainer Patrick Biancone.

Commonwealth next for D'wildcat

D'wildcat was expected to be a leading contender in Saturday's $200,000 Potrero Grande Breeders' Cup Handicap, but instead will race in the Commonwealth Breeders' Cup Stakes over seven furlongs at Keeneland on April 14.

Trainer Bob Hess Jr. said that the distance of the Commonwealth is better for D'wildcat than the 6 1/2 furlongs of the Potrero Grande.

"We have our mind set on seven-eighths; that distance is better," Hess said.

D'wildcat won the Grade 3 Swale Stakes at seven furlongs last year at Gulfstream Park.

Painful victory

Jockey Twei-Lian Reavey won her first race of the Santa Anita meeting aboard Little Bit Western ($11.60) in Thursday's first race, but was unseated a few strides after the finish.

Little Bit Western won a two-furlong maiden race for 2-year-olds by a neck over Mr. Elusive, but ducked to the outside when the race ended. Reavey was unable to stay on, and fell off the left side. Reavey was attended to by the ambulance crew but was not seriously hurt. She remounted Little Bit Western for the winner's circle photo.

Reavey is one of few female riders on the Southern California circuit. She rides primarily at Los Alamitos, but frequently works horses at Santa Anita.

* Kevin Krigger, who is fourth in the jockeys standings at Golden Gate Fields, will move to Santa Anita next week. An apprentice jockey who claims five pounds, Krigger's business will be handled by Tony Matos.