04/23/2012 10:18AM

Santa Anita reports increase in total handle for winter meet


ARCADIA, Calif. – Santa Anita completed its 72-day winter-spring meeting on Sunday with a 7 percent increase in total all-sources handle and a 1 percent increase in ontrack attendance and handle compared to the corresponding 70-day meeting in 2010-2011, the track announced. The meet began Dec. 26 and ended Sunday.

Officials at Santa Anita, which is owned by the Stronach Group, did not release handle or attendance figures.

Track president George Haines said the largest source of increased handle occurred through Internet and telephone account wagering throughout the United States and in California, which was up 23 percent over the previous year.

“The racing was good and we’re very encouraged by the out-of-state response to the races,” Haines said. “The [account wagering] numbers are strong. It’s all very encouraging.”

Haines described ontrack business as “stable” compared to 2010-11.

The 2010-11 meeting ended with declines in all-sources handle of 9 percent compared to the 2009-10 meeting, according the track.

Haines said that there is a surplus, or underpayment, in the purse pool from handle generated at the meeting, but described the sum as “not a significant amount.”

Field sizes showed an increase, from an average of 7.63 starters per race in 2010-11 to 7.86 starters per race this year. The track ran 15 more races this year than last year.

“The field size is the biggest issue in California,” Haines said. “Obviously, we’re going in the right direction. We have our eye on foal crops nationally.”

Foal crops have declined in recent years with the economic downturn, leading to long-term concerns about the availability of race-ready horses. Santa Anita raced four days a week through the meeting. A plan to run five days a week in March and April was scrapped midway through the meeting because of concern over race-ready horses.

Racing resumes at Santa Anita for the track’s fall meeting, which begins on Sept. 27 and includes the Breeders’ Cup races on Nov. 2-3.

On the racetrack, jockey Joel Rosario, 27, won his second consecutive riding title, finishing with 89 wins, the same number he had last year. Rafael Bejarano finished second with 72 wins. Mike Smith led all riders in stakes wins with 10.

Between them, Rosario and Bejarano have won every major riding title at a Southern California track, beginning with the 2007-08 winter-spring meeting at Santa Anita.

Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, 59, won his second consecutive title at a winter-spring meeting with 46 wins, finishing seven clear of John Sadler. Baffert led all trainers in stakes wins, with eight. Baffert has won 10 training titles at the winter-spring meeting since 1994-95.

Kosta Hronis of Delano, Calif., led all owners with 10 wins. Hronis, who is a farmer of table grapes, won his first stakes with Lady of Shamrock in the Blue Norther Stakes in December. She later won two more turf stakes for 3-year-old fillies.

I’ll Have Another, the winner of the Grade 2 Robert Lewis Stakes in February and the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby on April 7, was voted Horse of the Meeting. Owned by Paul and Zillah Reddam, I’ll Have Another is a leading contender for the Kentucky Derby on May 5.