11/07/2011 12:23PM

Santa Anita finishes meet strong


ARCADIA, Calif. – Santa Anita concluded its 24-day fall meeting on Sunday with an increase in business over the corresponding days from 2009 meeting, the last fall meeting at the track.

Track president George Haines said average all-sources handle increased 5 percent, average ontrack handle 6 percent, and average ontrack attendance 1 percent.

This fall was the first in which Santa Anita operated a fall meeting on its own. From 1968 to 2009, the Oak Tree Racing Association leased Santa Anita. Oak Tree ran its 2010 meeting at Hollywood Park.

In 2009, the track ran five days a week and hosted the Breeders’ Cup championships. This year, the track ran four days a week and took simulcasts of the Breeders’ Cup races from Churchill Downs. As a result, track officials compared business this year with corresponding days in 2009, Haines said. The 2009 Breeders’ Cup results were not included in the comparison for the 2011 meeting.

According to figures released after racing each day, the meeting had an ontrack average attendance of 6,805. Ontrack average handle was $1,322,702 while all-sources handle averaged $6,631,285.

The 2010 Oak Tree at Hollywood Park meeting had an all-sources average daily handle of $7,198,000, according to limited data released by Oak Tree after that meeting.

Saturday’s program, which included a simulcast of the Breeders’ Cup, drew a meet-high attendance of 16,598, which contributed to a meet-high all-sources handle of $14,476,363. For the first time the Breeders’ Cup host track, Churchill Downs, took a full-card simulcast of Santa Anita’s races. Haines described Saturday’s business as “pretty much what we expected.”

Revenue from handle exceeded purse obligations, Haines said, but it was unclear on Sunday whether there was enough left over funds to distribute a retroactive purse payment. Haines said track officials expected to finalize accounting from out-of-state wagering locations and account-wagering sources in coming weeks to determine whether a retroactive payment is possible.

There were more horses in action per race this fall compared to the winter-spring meeting at Santa Anita. Fields averaged 8.77 starters, compared to 7.63 starters at the winter-spring meeting.

“It seems like we’re on the upswing on horses per race, and that’s very encouraging,” Haines said. “I think the racing was excellent. Hopefully we can take this momentum and go with the winter and build on it.”

Hollywood Park opens its six-week fall meeting on Thursday. Live racing resumes at Santa Anita for the winter-spring meeting on Dec. 26.

When racing resumes at Santa Anita, the infield will have a slightly different look. The massive infield television, 40 feet tall and 53 feet wide, will be replaced by a smaller model, 11 feet lower, that will provide better sightlines to the backstretch during races.

Acclamation, the winner of the Grade 2 Clement Hirsch Turf Championship on Oct. 2, was named horse of the meeting.

John Sadler led all trainers with 14 wins, four more than Mike Mitchell. The order was a reversal of the first two placings at Del Mar during the summer.

Jockey Rafael Bejarano led all riders with 32 wins, one more than Joel Rosario, who had won the last four riding titles on the circuit beginning with the 2010 Hollywood Park fall meeting. The title was Bejarano’s first since the Oak Tree at Hollywood Park meeting.

Rosario, 26, and Bejarano, 29, have combined to win the riding titles at every major Southern California meeting since the Santa Anita winter-spring meeting of 2007-08.