12/21/2012 6:01PM

Santa Anita opens with a gift for pick-six bettors

Benoit & Associates
Santa Anita's opening day features three graded stakes - the Malibu, La Brea, and Sir Beaufort.

ARCADIA, Calif. – Holiday festivities continue one day after Christmas, on Dec. 26, when Santa Anita launches its 2012-13 winter meet amid a celebratory opening-day atmosphere and an appealing nine-race card with three graded stakes.

After nine dark racing days, Southern California horseplayers and horsemen should be champing at the bit for the opener of the 71-day, four-month winter meet.

“The break is the greatest thing in the world,” racing secretary Rick Hammerle said. “People are walking around, smiling, talking about where they went on vacation. Our guests and bettors, they thrive on that.”

Another thing bettors will thrive on is an innovative twist being planned for the Santa Anita pick six that would effectively reduce the takeout rate to just 3.68 percent for ontrack players. It could bring the wager storming back to popularity.

Santa Anita officials and Thoroughbred Owners of California on Friday were finalizing details of a creative idea that offers a 20 percent rebate bonus to winning ontrack pick six bettors. Takeout for the bet is 23.68 percent; the bonus drops the effective rate to 3.68.

Details have been slow to emerge, and track officials declined comment until the plan is signed, but one TOC source said, “It’s a done deal.”

As of Friday, the proposal faced legal and infrastructure hurdles; none was considered insurmountable. The concept is expected to work like this: Winning pick-six tickets purchased at Santa Anita by an “account-holder,” who must swipe an account card, would receive a 20 percent rebate bonus on non-carryover days.

For example, a $10,000 pick six winner would receive a $2,000 rebate bonus. A $100,000 pick six winner would receive an additional $20,000.

The bonus would be offered regardless of number of winning tickets.

The plan would be funded from the California Marketing Committee and the TOC.

Track president George Haines deferred comment on the plan, which is tentatively scheduled to launch Jan. 1.

The pick six is not the only thing changing this winter at Santa Anita.

Haines has resumed command as the track’s top executive following the autumn resignation of chief executive officer Mark Verge, who held the position for eight months.

Verge resigned soon after Nov. 4 conclusion of the autumn meet. “Mark had a great wealth of ideas that he wanted to implement, and of course you can’t implement every idea in a short amount of time,” Haines said.

Haines added: “The core staff at Santa Anita is very experienced in racing operations; we know how to promote the program. We’re taking some of the things [Verge] did well and bringing them forward, and other things that we think we can improve upon we will.”

Santa Anita’s promotional plans will include an updated website (santaanita.com), increased social media presence such as Twitter (@santaanitapark) and traditional broadcast.

“We’re going to have a larger TV presence,” Haines said. “Santa Anita is an extremely visual venue. You have to see what Santa Anita is all about.”

Live races will be broadcast by HRTV and, for the first time during winter, TVG.

“We are looking forward to the expanded distribution that TVG brings us,” Haines said. “The trending of [advance deposit wagering] has been up, significantly. So we expect that trend to continue.”

Gene Simmons, founding member of the rock group Kiss and respected marketing expert, will continue to have a consultation role in planning promotional strategy. There are no plans for a Kiss concert at Santa Anita.

Further, there are no plans for a return of the widely panned song “My California.” Billed as the official theme song of Santa Anita during the autumn meet and played repeatedly over the public address system, the song has been jettisoned, fans will be happy to learn.

While creative wagers and executive turnover is interesting conservation fodder into the new season, Santa Anita is still a spectacular horse racing venue. And after a week and a half between meets – Betfair Hollywood Park ended Dec. 16 – the entry box should be full.

“There is no reason we shouldn’t come out of the gate swinging,” racing secretary Hammerle said.

Swing they will, with an opening-day card that includes a pair of Grade 1, seven-furlong stakes for 3-year-olds. The $300,000 Malibu (race 8) is for colts and geldings; the $300,000 La Brea (race 4) is restricted to fillies. Less than two months have passed since Santa Anita hosted the Breeders’ Cup, and the spillover will continue.

BC Sprint runner-up The Lumber Guy faces BC Turf Sprint runner-up Unbridled’s Note in the Malibu; Ladies’ Classic runner-up My Miss Aurelia figures to be favored in the La Brea. The Grade 2, $150,000 Sir Beaufort (race 5) for 3-year-olds on grass supports the nine-race card.

Up until autumn, the leading contenders for the Malibu and La Brea had been based in the East or Midwest. Their campaigns resume where they left off, in California, continuing ship-in dominance.

Hammerle recognizes a recent trend handicappers have become accustomed to. The autumn meet at Hollywood included Grade 1 wins by ship-in 2-year-olds Violence (CashCall Futurity), Pure Fun (Hollywood Starlet), and Unbridled Command (Hollywood Derby).

“You need to start with the shippers,” Hammerle said. “Our categories are not as strong as they used to be. We used to go out and crush everybody.”

How long the trend lasts is unknown. “In the long run, I think it’s all cyclical,” Hammerle said. “Sometimes we’re on top, and sometimes we’re not.

“In a couple years, it will even out again. We notice it because it has not been this dramatic for a long time.”

If there is a resurgence of power from a local stable, it is likely to be Bob Baffert’s. His roster is so deep he trains 17 of the 51 horses nominated to the opening-day stakes. He entered three in the La Brea, two in the Sir Beaufort, and four in the Malibu.

Baffert is always a threat at his home track and always looks forward to opening day.

“To me it’s like opening kickoff of the football season,” he said. “It is the first game, a fresh start, a new page. And it’s an exciting tradition to show up with a grandstand full of people the day after Christmas.

“Everybody’s upbeat, and hopefully we will develop some horses for the classics. That’s one of the main reasons we exist, right?”

John Stevelberg More than 1 year ago
Hard to figure TVG helping the on air folks sound more like "touts" then analysts. Prefer Twin Spires...seems more like a "nuts and bolts" operation.
Bruce Epstein More than 1 year ago
A few of the TVG "experts" were just "dead chalk guys" . . . especially little Richie Perloff, he never liked a horse over 4/5. Way too chalk oriented for a true horse player.
Advance Plumbing More than 1 year ago
They added tons of sand to SA, it didnt work out well for locals, however i have to play Dec 26 cause Lumber Guy is a lock.
Advance Plumbing More than 1 year ago
HRTV finally showed Hollywood Park for the first time, Now TVG with Santa Anita for the first time, every little bit of extra insight is very helpful. Bout time!!
Mike B More than 1 year ago
TVG has a few seconds lead time over HRTV when both show the same race..TVG had its talent on track at Betfair (track is named for TVG's owner) while HRTV took the track's feed and had announcers in studio..look for reverse at SA (HRTV and SA are commonly owned)
[removed] More than 1 year ago
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Advance Plumbing More than 1 year ago
MC knows his stuff, went with his longshots many times, HRTV isnt going anywhere, ur nuts.
[removed] More than 1 year ago
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Mike B More than 1 year ago
I'll take HRTV's commentators over TVG any day, especially LP3, Gary Stevens and new hire Christina, they are very professional (I would like to see HRTV talent make more picks on races). Though Matty C does see a lot of his prices come in, I don't care to see whose eyelashes are longer or what they can eat at the bullring fair.
Mike B More than 1 year ago
And I don't care to see ex baseball player see if he still has it by hitting a ball into a lake..sophomoric
Cover2 More than 1 year ago
If it doesn't rain on the parade, off turf, scratches
Gerard Doise More than 1 year ago
I dont see how that big break on track only is going to revive the pick 6. The pick 5 has the lowest take out and that is why it gets much better play. The pick 4's are even suffering a little now due to the very low take out. TVG is not going to help Santa Anita either, but that is just my opinion. Why would anyone want to use wagering site that charges at least $20 for wagers each month and charges for video and handicapping materials? Are they not the only ones doing so? They also have the worst support on set. Anyway, sorry i got off track. California tracks are slowly falling apart. Too few horses and too much take out. Also too corrupt.
Russell More than 1 year ago
ill just play poker or slots now as a 6 fig gambler on twsprs ive had enough of the take out the 300 to 1 w2s the game in general. so are you telling me that the bettors on track play more then the online bettors into your pool ???i doubt it . if you lose online play from the people who cant get to the track because they are hundreds or thousands of miles away good luck with those hugh pools.i know were all degenerates that cant help but play.?well. not this guy not anymore.keep your homers ill stay away
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I can win up to 10,000 on a bad beat poker jackpot and never have to sign a tax form.....Horse racing needs to get with the program. Bobby Kennedy is dead. It was his law..........
BTomlonson More than 1 year ago
I'm all in favor of them lowering the takeout for on track bettors. I play the pick 6 on NYRA and west coast tracks frequently via Twinspires. I wish all tracks lowered all take outs for those in attendance for all bets. It'd get this guy away from HRTV and Tvg and to Churchill, Hoosier Downs and Keeneland more often!
Gary More than 1 year ago
How about 1.00 pick 6 bet with the same takeout as before...the little guy has a chance.
michael More than 1 year ago
The exacta and trifecta is the little people's bet. Lower takeout on them and the handle will increase on a daily basis. Most tracks pool totals are swollen on these bets. Good luck to all on all their horses. Remember to give to the retired horse heroes when their careers are finished.