02/25/2014 2:52PM

Santa Anita: All-sources handle up 3%, but field size declines


ARCADIA, Calif. – The winter-spring meeting at Santa Anita reached the halfway point earlier this month with an increase in all-sources handle, but a decline in average field size that has concerned officials.

The 69-day meeting began Dec. 26 and continues through April 20. Thursday’s program at Santa Anita will be the 40th day of the winter-spring meeting. The track’s spring-summer meeting begins April 25 and runs through June 29, replacing much of the former Hollywood Park spring-summer meeting.

At Santa Anita, all-sources handle has risen approximately 3 percent through last Saturday’s program, but field size has dropped from 8.3 runners per race at this point of the 2012-13 meeting to 7.69 runners through Sunday. The entire 2012-13 meeting averaged 8.08 runners per race.

“We’re all concerned about field sizes,” track president George Haines said last weekend.

Despite the drop in average starters, Haines said there are no plans to alter the racing schedule, such as going to a three-day racing week.

“It’s not something we’ve talked about,” Haines said.

For Thursday’s program, there are 57 horses entered for eight races, or 7.1 horses per race before scratches. Friday’s eight-race program has 58 entrants.

Haines and other officials cite several reasons for the decline, including an extra week of racing at the Hollywood Park autumn meeting in December, which was not run in 2012; and two five-day racing weeks in January and February to accommodate holiday racing on Mondays.

“Running at Hollywood Park on the last week was more detrimental than we thought,” said Joe Morris, president of the Thoroughbred Owners of California.

While the holiday programs were held in past years, this year’s meeting has played out under a different offtrack stabling scenario. Hollywood Park, which ceased racing in December for development, closed its barn area at the end of January. As a result, stables based there were relocated to Santa Anita, Barretts Sales and Racing at the Los Angeles County Fair, Los Alamitos in Orange County, and the San Luis Rey Downs training center in northern San Diego County in late January.

Trainers that relocated spent time reorganizing their stables and may not have been as active with runners, said Rick Hammerle, Santa Anita’s director of racing.

“People are getting settled,” Hammerle said. “When they move to a new location, horses have to get familiar with the surface. That’s obviously a factor.”

At the same time, training conditions have been ideal this winter. The first half of the meeting had abnormally dry weather, leaving California in a drought. While wet weather is expected in coming days, there has been no significant disruption to training caused by weather.

“The weather has been fantastic, and the racing has been great,” Haines said.

The weather has helped business. Haines said the purse pool is “right about where we thought we’d be” after the first two months of the season.

Earlier this month, Morris said at a TOC open forum at Santa Anita that there are approximately 2,600 horses at Santa Anita and the offtrack stabling venues, a number growing each week with additional 2-year-olds. The juveniles will begin racing in late April.

Through April 13, the track will run four-day racing weeks, followed by a two-day weekend on April 19-20 to conclude the winter-spring meeting.

“We’re about to get into a run of four days [per week] which will help,” Hammerle said.

Forego137 More than 1 year ago
All the powers that be worked really hard to close down Hollywood Park and their reasoning was it would create bigger fields at S.A., so when is that going to take place??? Betting @S.A. is alot like going to Vegas, you have zero chance of making money, hell you have a better chance of winning playing the lottery than betting @S.A.. I have an Idea why don't we close down the other tracks in Calif except for S.A. then maybe we can get full fields. Hmmmm.........
Darien Francis More than 1 year ago
SA has the most noncompetitive racing anywhere NOW. This is mainly caused by the very small field sizes. The math they use is stupid .. using average field size. IF you have 3 or 4 5-horse and 4-horse fields then later 2 9-horse field it does not compensate. The 4 tiny fields are a waste of time betting so count those out. IN addition there have been days with 4 or 5 maiden events. Give me a break, that's not competition that is lottery. Another aspect is ...whether or not we believe it is happening.... small fields make race fixing easier. Is it happening?? we cannot tell .. a nod and a wink is easy in small field. IF SA lays back on this issue CA racing will die. Compares with Woodbine in Canada. they have massive fields every race and great competition and great payouts. Just stop making excuses.. racing in CA is in a deadly downward spiral.
MD23 More than 1 year ago
“Running at Hollywood Park on the last week was more detrimental than we thought." At this point, Hollywood Park has nothing to do with it (shake my head)
pathagan More than 1 year ago
Hollywood's last meet had higher average field sizes than the 2012 Fall meet. Many trainers preferred their Cushion track over SA's dirt surface to begin with and more NoCal barns sent shippers (mainly bottom-to-25K claimers) on their synthetic.
Roger More than 1 year ago
Santa Anita's Restricted 3 Doubles vs Rolling Doubles is DOWN over $3.6 MILLION in HANDLE yet where are horsemen/trainers demanding what the majority fans want = REINSTATE ROLLING DOUBLES.....Restricted 3 Doubles is an ABSOLUTE - CLEAR CUT - FAILURE.
racetrackandy More than 1 year ago
Why is the low takeout (14%) Players Pick 5 up about 50% over last year. The shortest fields are in the first few races of the day. Quit making excuses and make the right moves for once already
Pat More than 1 year ago
Keep running them until they ALL break down and then blame the racing surface!
mikey More than 1 year ago
They have the best weather in the country.These 5 and 6 horse fields are a joke.Some days for 500 $$$ you can all the p5.Where are the horses.Gulfstream has more than they need.They have become the BIG A of the west.
rick smith More than 1 year ago
correction as of 2-4-2014
rick smith More than 1 year ago
BETTING ON EAST COAST IN VICE GRIP Virginia track is closed down for betting until further notice. Colonial downs is shut down by state because the track wants same number of racing days as last year 25 and the state wants 32. Last known location state employee who closed track " was on vacation in japan and will be for a couple weeks" as of 2-4-1013 Inside sources say the track will open the day before Kentucky derby or was it the Preakness no it was the Belmont or is the day before the Virginia july racing meet takes place..........The drf staff are "MIA" on looking into the subject for over 3 weeks now. New York no betting on santa anita and gulfstream and other tracks across the nation because of a signal dispute. The signal cost the same to transmit to space and back to earth.....They just want more money ................because that's the way they roll.
Horse Cents More than 1 year ago
So after 40 days of racing at Santa Anita, they think the extra week at Hollywood is the cause of the continued daily short fields? They better put that thinking cap on someone else.
Mike C. More than 1 year ago
My thoughts exactly! What a bunch of BS!