11/07/2005 12:00AM

Strong final week helps cut losses


ARCADIA, Calif. - Although the Oak Tree Racing Association did not release detailed handle figures for its 31-day meet at Santa Anita, which ended Sunday, both ontrack and all-sources handle were down.

Ontrack handle declined approximately 3 percent, said Sherwood Chillingworth, Oak Tree's executive vice president. Overall handle fell 2 percent, according to a statement released by the track.

Chillingworth said a strong final week helped to reduce some declines earlier in the meet.

Hot weather and a virus that hit the barn area were seen as causes for slow business early in the meeting.

"The swing has been enormous," Chillingworth said. "Business was gangbusters at the end."

In an effort to boost weekday business, the track offered free admission on three occasions to members of its Thoroughbred frequent customer program.

Chillingworth said that purses were overpaid by $173,000 going into the final week, but that through Saturday, business had improved enough that there was a $102,000 surplus in the purse fund.

On the track, Steve Knapp won his first training title, highlighted by a victory with Brite Maneuvers in Sunday's $125,000 California Cup Juvenile.

Knapp, 48, finished with 16 wins, one more than Jeff Mullins. Knapp's stable consists primarily of claimers, and the Cal Cup Juvenile was by far the stable's most lucrative win of the meeting.

In the jockey race, Garrett Gomez was the leading rider with 44 wins, 13 more than Martin Pedroza. Gomez won the riding title at the Hollywood Park spring-summer meeting earlier this year and finished second behind Victor Espinoza at Del Mar.

Gomez did not ride all 31 days of the Oak Tree meeting. He won two Breeders' Cup races at Belmont Park on Oct. 29.

Knapp said of his first training title, "This is a good milestone. My owners have allowed me to claim some nice horses. In October, we won 11 races, and that's a huge month for anyone."

Knapp expects his stable to have a strong Hollywood Park meeting this fall, even though the meeting will be restricted to dirt racing.

"I've got plenty to run at Hollywood. I only have about four or five turf horses."

Rock Hard Ten, the winner of the Goodwood Breeders' Cup Handicap, was named horse of the meeting.