11/05/2012 4:34PM

Santa Anita: All-sources handle rises, but ontrack wagering, attendance decline at fall meet


ARCADIA, Calif. – Santa Anita ended its autumn meeting Sunday after a successful Breeders’ Cup weekend with mixed business figures for the rest of the meeting – lower average attendance and handle ontrack, but a rise in overall handle helped by a significant increase in account wagering.

For the purposes of comparison with the 2011 Santa Anita autumn meeting, the two days of Breeders’ Cup races were not included in the figures compiled by track officials. The 2011 Breeders’ Cup races were held at Churchill Downs.

Without the Breeders’ Cup days, the all-sources handle for the 24-day meeting rose by approximately 5 percent when matched with comparable days of the 2011 meeting, according to track officials. The gain was attributed to a sizable increase in account wagering from Internet and telephone betting.

Track officials said that average ontrack attendance and handle declined approximately 5 percent over the 2011 meeting.

The track did not disclose detailed attendance and handle figures.

Track president George Haines said the presence of the Breeders’ Cup at the end of the meeting could have kept some fans away from the track on a regular basis through the six-week meeting that opened Sept. 28.

“There are some people that build their bankrolls for two of the best days of racing,” he said.

Haines said the purses were underpaid, indicating that more revenue was generated than was required to pay out. It was unclear Sunday whether that would result in a retroactive purse increase or whether the sum would be carried over into the 2013 autumn meeting.

Haines said the increase in account wagering indicates a continuing shift away from “brick-and-mortar” betting locations, such as racetracks and offtrack betting locations.

The Breeders’ Cup days were by far the highlight of the meeting, in terms of the quality of racing and enthusiasm from fans.

The Friday and Saturday Breeders’ Cup programs had a combined ontrack attendance of 89,742, an ontrack handle of $21,346,290, and all-sources handle of $147,831,670, according to figures released from the track after each program.

“The last two days were spectacular,” Haines said. “We were pleased with the results. The crowd responded.”

Santa Anita hosted the Breeders’ Cup for the first time since 2009 over the weekend. Haines said that the track will benefit from the recent experience.

“It will be a better event next year,” he said. “Some of the rough edges will be smoothed out.”

Santa Anita will host the 2013 Breeders’ Cup at its autumn meeting.

On the racetrack, Joe Talamo, 22, won his first riding title in Southern California with 37 wins, 16 more than Rafael Bejarano. Bob Baffert led all trainers with 19 wins, seven more than John Sadler.

Wise Dan, the dazzling winner of the BC Mile on Saturday, was voted horse of the meeting.