10/03/2011 4:13PM

Santa Anita: Big day's handle seen as ‘a little light’

Shigeki Kikkawa
Game On Dude, with Chantal Sutherland aboard, comes home the winner of the Goodwood, one of four Grade 1 stakes on Saturday's Santa Anita card.

ARCADIA, Calif - The first weekend of the six-week Santa Anita autumn meeting saw an average ontrack crowd of 9,842 and average all-sources handle of $8,395,174.

Saturday’s 11-race program, which featured four Grade 1 races, drew an ontrack crowd of 16,013 who contributed to an overall handle of $11,678,920.

The track’s president, George Haines, said Saturday’s attendance figure “was on the low side of our ballpark” figure. He described the handle that day as “a little light.”

This fall is the first year that Santa Anita has operated an autumn meeting on its own. The Oak Tree Racing Association ran previous fall meetings, but was not awarded dates this year. Last year, Oak Tree ran a fall meeting at Hollywood Park.

The current Santa Anita autumn meeting is the first racing in October and November at the track since 2009, a meeting in which Oak Tree hosted the Breeders’ Cup. The meeting runs through Nov. 6.

One bright spot over the weekend was field sizes. Through the first three days of the meeting, races averaged 9.34 starters. Last year, the opening four-day weekend of the Oak Tree at Hollywood Park meeting had an average of 7.44 starters. The five-day opening week of the 2009 Oak Tree at Santa Anita meeting had an average of 8.3 starters.

Racing resumes on Thursday. Although wet weather is forecast, field sizes should be strong with 91 horses entered in eight races. There will be fewer starters, with six of those horses on the also-eligible list and the likelihood of late scratches in other races.