07/21/2002 11:00PM

Record handle, bigger crowds at spring-summer meet


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Hollywood Park set a record for all-sources handle and posted a strong increase in attendance at the 65-day spring-summer meeting that ended Sunday.

Overall handle rose 5 percent to a record average of $10.6 million, which surpassed the 1999 mark of $10.4 million. Much of the growth came from interstate simulcasting, which rose 7 percent, and from telephone and Internet wagering, which became legal in California in January. Betting from those sources averaged $352,865.

Ontrack handle dipped 4 percent, to $1.9 million. Track president Rick Baedeker attributed part of that loss to the creation of telephone and Internet betting. He said purse revenues from Internet and telephone betting offset the decline in ontrack handle.

Attendance rose 9 percent to 9,130, boosted by the return of Friday night racing. Last year, the track offered twilight racing on Fridays, which was not well received.

On the racetrack, Patrick Valenzuela led all riders with 74 wins, finishing 13 clear of Alex Solis. Bobby Frankel led trainers with 23 wins, five more than Doug O'Neill.

O'Neill had a milestone meeting. He won the $750,000 Hollywood Gold Cup with Sky Jack, who was voted horse of the meeting.

O'Neill cleared of rules violation

The California Horse Racing Board has cleared O'Neill of charges of exceeding a house rule that limits trainers to two starters per race.

O'Neill was accused of having three runners in the second race on May 10. He won the race with Rainman's Request and finished fifth with Half Wild.

O'Neill was alleged to have been the trainer of Affirm Cat, who was listed as being trained by Armando Lage.

Trainers are permitted to start two horses in overnight races, according to a house rule in use for years, racing officials said. There is nothing expressly stated in the condition book that limits trainers to two starters in overnight races.

The stewards conducted a hearing on July 13, but did not penalize O'Neill.

Affirm Cat was trained by O'Neill in 2001. He made three starts for Lage earlier this year before rejoining O'Neill's barn for the Carry Back stakes at Calder on July 13.

Noble Silence may be stakes-bound

Sunday, O'Neill unveiled Noble Silence, a 2-year-old first-time starter who won by a half-length over Siberland. Noble Silence set a quick pace and led by 4 1/2 lengths before shortening stride in the final furlong.

O'Neill mentioned the $100,000 I'm Smokin Stakes for California-breds over 5 1/2 furlongs at Del Mar on Sept. 9 as a possibility.

Record payoff for one pick six player

Sunday's pick six produced a record payoff of $928,127.40 on one ticket, which was bought at a Connecticut OTB, according to track officials.

The previous record was $774,014 set in June 1997.

The winners of Sunday's pick six races were Ditch 'em ($3.80), Grammarian ($60), Taste of Paradise ($6.60), It Is True Mex ($21.40), American Czarina ($11.20), and Golden Arrow ($3.80).

* John Watson, a former jockey and member of the Hollywood Park gate crew, retired Sunday. Watson, 57, won the 1973 All American Futurity at Ruidoso Downs for Quarter Horses on Timeto Thinkrich. He retired as a rider in December 1979 and has worked on the gate for 23 years. Watson said he plans to retire in Depew, Okla., to be closer to family.