10/09/2012 12:34PM

Santa Anita: All-sources handle up 1%; attendance, ontrack handle decline

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ARCADIA, Calif. – Santa Anita has shown an increase in all-sources handle and a decline in ontrack attendance and handle through the first eight days of the autumn meeting.

Through Monday, the meeting showed an increase in all-sources handle of 1 percent, with much of the growth coming through account wagering, according to the track’s president, George Haines. Account wagering handle has increased 30 percent, he said.

Ontrack attendance is down 5 percent for the meeting, while ontrack handle is down 10 percent.

The season runs through Nov. 4 and includes the Breeders’ Cup Championship days on Nov. 2-3. The track will be the site of the Breeders’ Cup for the first time since 2009.

The decline in ontrack business is partially attributed to triple-digit temperatures that plagued the first three days of the meeting – Sept. 28-30 – and kept some fans away.

“The ontrack is down, but we’re up significantly in ADW handle,” Haines said. “We think some of the heat-related days opening the meeting sort of stopped us from getting out of the gate well.”

Haines said the gain in all-sources handle, including betting from simulcasting and account wagering sources, has helped the bottom line.

“As far as purses go, we’re okay,” he said.

Monday’s business was stronger than the corresponding day last year. The ontrack attendance was 7,378, compared with 7,048 last year.

“I think the momentum will build,” Haines said.

The average field size has increased slightly, from 9.25 runners per race through the first eight days of the 2011 meeting to 9.33 through the first eight days of the current meeting. The entire 2011 meeting had an average of 8.77 starters per race.

There have been other changes at the meeting. The main track was renovated over the summer, with the addition of 1,000 tons of sand. The track was biased toward speed in the opening days of the meeting.

“We were concerned about the speed bias,” Haines said Monday. “The last few days, we’re seeing some closers.”

The track switched television production companies before the start of the meeting, replacing in-house staff with Pegasus Communications, which provides television production at Los Alamitos and Fairplex Park.

In the early days of the meeting, television pictures were marred by erratic camerawork, particularly in races on the hillside turf course.

Haines acknowledged the television difficulties at the start of the meeting.

“We’ve made great progress with TV,” he said. “I know it was a hard start.”