04/22/2013 2:13PM

Santa Anita business boosted by account wagering

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Barbara D. Livingston
Game On Dude, trained By Bob Baffert, was named horse of the winter-spring Santa Anita meeting after winning the San Antonio Stakes and Santa Anita Handicap.

ARCADIA, Calif. – The Santa Anita winter-spring meeting ended Sunday with a slight gain in all-sources handle, but a sizeable drop in ontrack business, according to the track’s president, George Haines.

The track released limited business and handle data.

In an interview, Haines said the all-sources handle rose 4 percent. Ontrack handle fell 10 percent on comparative days from the 2011-12 winter-spring season, while ontrack attendance was down 9 percent, he said.

“We had a challenge early in the meet with weather,” Haines said referring to pesky wet conditions in January. “At the end of the meeting, we recovered well with attendance.”

The gain in all-sources handle was caused by an increase of approximately 40 percent in account wagering through telephone and Internet sources.

“Our greatest strength has been in [the account wagering] side of our business,” he said. “We’re up close to 40 percent.”

The winter-spring meeting was the first that was available for viewing on both TVG and HRTV, a subsidiary of Santa Anita’s parent company, The Stronach Group.

Haines said that purses “are underpaid, but not by much.” He said the surplus in the purse pool was not enough to justify a retroactive payment in coming weeks.

The 71-day winter-spring meeting began Dec. 26, and is expected to be the last of its kind for the foreseeable future.

Betfair Hollywood Park in Inglewood, Calif., has committed to racing through the end of 2013, but the track’s owners have indicated a desire to close the facility for commercial and real-estate development. Hollywood Park officials have not said whether the track will operate in 2014, and there is widespread belief in Southern California racing that the track will be closed at the end of this year.

If Hollywood Park closes, Santa Anita is expected to request additional racing dates in the spring and early summer. The track could run from Dec. 26, 2013, through early July 2014. Racing dates for 2014 will be discussed at a California Horse Racing Board meeting in Sacramento on May 23.

If Santa Anita runs for more than six months in the first half of 2014, Haines said the meeting will look significantly different than the 2013 season.

“It’s a challenge for us to come up with an exciting stakes schedule and to keep people interested,” he said.

Santa Anita will host a fall meeting this year, from Sept. 27 to Nov. 3, that will include the two-day Breeders’ Cup races on Nov. 1-2.

On the racetrack, Bob Baffert led all trainers with 38 wins for his third consecutive training title at the winter-spring meeting. Jerry Hollendorfer was second with 35 wins. Baffert has won a record 11 training titles at the winter-spring meeting.

The Baffert-trained Game On Dude was named horse of the meeting after winning two major stakes, the San Antonio Stakes and Santa Anita Handicap.

Rafael Bejarano won his fourth riding title of a winter-spring meeting with 93 wins, 31 more than Edwin Maldonado.

Kosta and Pete Hronis were leading owners with 11 wins, including Saturday’s Grade 2 Santa Barbara Handicap with Lady of Shamrock, who was promoted from second to first.