03/27/2011 1:17PM

Santa Anita cancels Wednesday racing for rest of meet

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ARCADIA, Calif. – Santa Anita has cancelled racing on the final three Wednesdays of the winter-spring meeting, beginning this week, citing a shortage of available horses.

The decision was announced early Sunday after discussions by track officials late Saturday, according to track president George Haines. Earlier on Saturday, racing officials attempted unsuccessfully to draw an eight-race program for Wednesday.

Racing will not be held for the remaining three Wednesdays of the meet, including April 6 and April 13. Racing will be conducted on a Thursday-through-Sunday basis through the end of the meeting on April 17.

“We’ve cancelled for the next three Wednesdays because of the horse shortage,” Haines said.

Haines said the track could have scraped together eight races for Wednesday, but that the quality of the races would have been low and field sizes small.

“It wouldn’t have been reflective of the card we wanted,” he said. “We wanted to put a good card together.”

He estimated that there are 2,400 available horses based at Santa Anita and Hollywood Park and said that an inventory between 2,800 and 3,000 is needed to accommodate racing five days per week.

The cancellations mean that Santa Anita will have run four day weeks for most of the meeting.

Last fall, Santa Anita applied to run four days per week, Thursdays through Sundays, in January and February this year, with the exception of two five-day weeks for holidays. The original plan was to shift to a five-day week in March and April by adding Wednesdays. In February, the track announced that there would be no Wednesday racing until March 23, citing concern about available horses.

The Wednesday, March 23, program was poorly supported by horsemen and fans, with 55 runners in eight races, an average of 6.9 runners per race. The ontrack handle was $461,607, less than track officials had hoped for.

Through Sunday, the track had averaged 7.67 starters per race since the meeting began on Dec. 26, compared to 7.97 for a similar period at the 2009-10 meeting. The entire 2009-10 meeting had an average of 7.81 starters.

Haines said a promotion that began last week of offering free general admission and box seats on Friday, as well as some concessions for $2, will continue through the end of the meeting.