12/22/2016 11:00AM

Santa Anita gives horseplayers a fresh start

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Barbara D. Livingston
Santa Anita opens Monday with a new jackpot pick six wager.

The big crowd expected at Santa Anita on Monday will have a central focus – to celebrate racing on opening day of the track’s winter-spring meeting. The day after Christmas feels like a holiday for racing fans, a chance to reconvene for the start of a new racing year.

Monday’s program will be the first racing at Santa Anita since Breeders’ Cup weekend in early November. Officials expect a bumper crowd Monday.

“I think we’ll get 35,000 to 40,000,” said track vice president Joe Morris.

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Morris expects robust business for the four-month winter-spring meeting, which runs through April 9. Santa Anita starts a spring-summer meeting the following weekend that runs through July 4.

The track has added more promotions to its calendar in recent years to give customers frequent reasons to attend.

“I think we’ll be up in attendance and handle,” Morris said. “We’ve got something going on every weekend.”

For bettors, the most significant change is a revised format to the $2 pick six. For the first time, Santa Anita will offer a jackpot provision, with part of the pool paid only if there is a single winning ticket. The net pool will be divided, with 70 percent going to tickets with six winners, and 15 percent to consolation tickets. The other 15 percent is paid out only if there is a single winning ticket. If there are no winning tickets or more than one winning ticket, that 15 percent will be carried over.

A similar format was introduced at Del Mar during the track’s autumn meeting. Santa Anita said it has been working with the California Horse Racing Board to avoid a repeat of the pick six snafu that occurred at Del Mar on Dec. 4, the final day of that season. With a mandatory payout in effect, 44 tickets had all six winners, each worth $15,660. But the rules devised for the wager did not provide for consolation payoffs on mandatory payout days, leaving those with 5 of 6 empty handed. Del Mar announced a few days later that it would provide a payout to consolation ticketholders out of its own funds.

Monday’s nine-race opening-day program begins at noon Pacific and includes four stakes, run as the last four races of the day. There is a 50-cent pick four with a guaranteed pool of $1 million on the last four races – the Grade 3 San Simeon Stakes, Grade 1 La Brea, Grade 1 Malibu, and Grade 2 Mathis Brothers Mile.

There are nine Grade 1 races at the meeting, including the $300,000 American Oaks on Dec. 31, which had previously been run during spring or summer. The Grade 1, $750,000 Santa Anita Handicap will be run March 11, and the Grade 1, $1 million Santa Anita Derby will be run April 8. The Santa Anita Handicap program also has two other Grade 1 races – the $400,000 Triple Bend Stakes and the $400,000 Frank Kilroe Mile. The Santa Anita Derby program includes the Grade 1, $400,000 Santa Anita Oaks for 3-year-old fillies.

Santa Anita runs primarily Thursdays-Sundays, with first post most days at 12:30 p.m.