06/30/2014 7:17AM

Santa Anita ends spring-summer meet with increased all-sources handle

Benoit Photo
Majestic Harbor, winner of the Santa Anita Gold Cup on Saturday, was named the 2014 horse of the meet.

ARCADIA, Calif. – Santa Anita ended its spring-summer meeting on Sunday, a 38-day season that showed a 40 percent increase in all-sources handle compared with the corresponding meeting at Hollywood Park in 2013, according to chairman Keith Brackpool.

Santa Anita’s winter-spring meeting operated in its traditional time period, from Dec. 26, 2013, to April 20 of this year, before the spring-summer meeting began on April 25, replacing dates previously held by Hollywood Park, which closed last December.

Santa Anita officials estimated that all-sources handle for the spring-summer meeting reached a total of $377.2 million, for an average of $9.93 million per day. Ontrack handle averaged an estimated $1.4 million per day, while ontrack attendance averaged 6,970. The attendance figure did not include free admission to the infield on weekends.

The all-sources handle exceeded expectations.

“I think everything went spectacular,” track president Tom Ludt said.

The handle figures were high enough that the purse pool was underpaid. Officials have held conversations with the Thoroughbred Owners of California about carrying some purse money into the autumn meeting that begins in late September in an effort to have uniform purses throughout the year. In past years, the autumn meeting has had a lower purse structure.

“We’re trying to make an arrangement that we’ll roll some of the money forward to the fall meeting,” Ludt said. “We want to keep that consistent for the fall meeting.”

Ludt said that if the final figures on the purse underpayment are higher than expected, then a retroactive purse payment is possible for owners who had horses earn prize money in overnight races at the meeting.

Average field size was 7.71 runners per race, a minor increase over the 7.66 runners per race during the winter-spring meeting, and the 7.6 runners per race at the 2013 Hollywood Park spring-summer meeting.

This year’s spring-summer meeting lost one day of racing – May 15 – to excessively warm conditions. On June 7, the day of the simulcast of the Belmont Stakes program, the track recorded its highest ontrack attendance of the meeting – 31,208. The all-sources handle that day was $21.2 million, slightly less than the meet-high of $21.3 million recorded on Kentucky Derby Day, May 3.

The track tried different promotions during the spring-summer meeting, shifting Friday post times from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Pacific, and offering free weekend attendance to the infield.

Ludt said that a new policy of offering free admission to the infield will continue in the autumn meeting. The track did not count those customers in its attendance figures. Warm weather held down infield crowds in recent weeks since the infield does not have many structures with cover to get away from the sun.

Joe Talamo won the riding title, with 43 wins, 12 more than runner-up Tyler Baze. The jockey standings sustained a major shakeup when Rafael Bejarano, who led the standings at the winter-spring meeting, suffered injuries to his shoulder blade and collarbone in a spill on May 10. Bejarano is expected to return to riding in July.

Doug O’Neill led all trainers with 27 wins, four more than Peter Miller.

Kaleem Shah was named owner of the meeting, leading the category with $414,190 in stable earnings and five wins.

Majestic Harbor, who won the Gold Cup at Santa Anita on Saturday, was named horse of the meeting.