11/07/2016 1:10PM

Santa Anita meet sees gains in attendance, handle

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ARCADIA, Calif. – Santa Anita ended its 21-day autumn meeting on Sunday with significant growth in average attendance and handle compared to the corresponding meeting in 2015.

Direct comparisons with the 2015 meeting are difficult since the track hosted two days of Breeders’ Cup races this year but did not host the event last year. In a review of the two meetings, track executives removed the Breeders’ Cup business figures from last Friday and Saturday to compare the remainder of the seasons.

According to Nate Newby, vice president of marketing, average attendance rose 14 percent, while average ontrack handle increased 4 percent during the non-Breeders’ Cup portion of the 2016 meeting. The track ran a 19-day autumn meeting in 2015.

The track did not release detailed business figures.

“We have pretty good momentum right now,” Newby said. “Attendance-wise, we had a great meeting. It was very solid.”

Newby said average daily all-sources handle, including simulcast and account-wagering sources nationwide, rose 1 percent.

The two days of Breeders’ Cup races had all-sources handle of $159.9 million, a gain of 3.2 percent over the 2014 Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita, Newby said. Ontrack handle for the two days this year was $21.2 million, a gain of 3.1 percent over 2014.

The meeting opened Sept. 30 and concluded Sunday. The track will resume live racing Dec. 26 and conduct two marathon meetings through July 4. Newby said he is hopeful that the success of the autumn meeting will continue in the new year. He said Santa Anita is planning extensive ontrack promotions each weekend in an effort to drive attendance in conjunction with major stakes.

“I think our basic strategy is to have a compelling event or promotion to get people out,” he said. “We have to incorporate the event into the race day. If you want to grow attendance, you need to combine something with the racing to get the new fan.”

On the track, Rafael Bejarano led all riders with 23 wins, his seventh consecutive riding title at a Santa Anita meeting since the autumn of 2014. Kent Desormeaux was second with 20 wins. Bejarano has won or tied for the title in the four meetings at Del Mar and Santa Anita this year.

Peter Miller led all trainers with 18 wins, two more than Bob Baffert and Doug O’Neill. The title was a first for Miller since he finished in a tie at the 2014 Del Mar summer meeting.

Arrogate, the winner of Saturday’s Breeders’ Cup Classic against California Chrome in his only start of the meeting, was named the top horse of the meeting.