03/06/2006 1:00AM

Santa Anita has banner day


Solid racing, aggressive marketing, an attractive giveaway item, and gorgeous weather were cited by Santa Anita officials as the reasons for the blockbuster day the track had Saturday, when 49,089 admissions were sold and overall handle reached $24,238,239.

The card featured the current Kentucky Derby favorite, Brother Derek, in the Santa Catalina Stakes; last year's Derby winner, Giacomo, in the Santa Anita Handicap; and the Grade 1 Kilroe Mile on turf. Undercard purses were boosted for the day, resulting in big fields. Santa Anita saturated the local market through television and newspaper advertising, and gave away tote bags.

The attendance, a 38 percent increase from last year's 35,484, was the highest on Big Cap Day since 1990, and the handle was a 6.8 percent increase from last year's $22,675,695.

"There's no doubt we had a few spinners for the giveaway item," Allen Gutterman, Santa Anita's vice president of marketing, said Monday, "but we feel confident we had more than 40,000 people at the track, for sure."