01/25/2018 5:22PM

Total handle in California flat in 2017


ARCADIA, Calif. – All-sources wagering on races throughout California fell by less than 1 percent in 2017, according to data announced at Thursday’s California Horse Racing Board meeting.

Handle at daytime Thoroughbred meetings, the harness meetings in Sacramento, and the year-round Quarter Horse and lower-level Thoroughbred meeting at Los Alamitos combined to reach $3,034,102,885, a decline of 0.15 percent from $3,038,641,024 in 2016.

Ontrack handle declined 2.8 percent to $340 million, while account wagering through online and telephone sources in California rose 4.4 percent to $644,443,657.

Account wagering “continues to grow year after year,” said executive director Rick Baedeker.

Baedeker said weak handle in December kept the state from showing gains for the year. There was one canceled day of daytime racing at Los Alamitos on Dec. 8 because of the devastating fire that struck the San Luis Rey Downs training center the previous day. Los Alamitos did not race that day after officials decided that the racing community was more focused on recovering from the fire.

For the month, all-sources wagering fell 5.98 percent to $194,484,974. Without the lost day, “it would have flipped us on the right side of the ledger,” Baedeker said.

“We ended up basically dead even. We were well behind at the end of the spring. It was an extraordinary year with the rain we dealt with in the winter. We rallied and finished well, and hopefully we can keep the momentum going this year.”

• More than $800,000 has been distributed to people affected by the wildfire that struck San Luis Rey Downs, the CHRB was told on Thursday.

Cliff Goodrich, the former president of Santa Anita and the current executive director of the California Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Foundation, said that approximately $906,000 was donated to aid victims of the fire and that $818,000 had been dispersed.

Goodrich told the racing board that $453,000 was distributed to trainers for operating costs and recovery of lost equipment, and $238,000 was paid to backstretch workers. In addition, $100,000 was paid to a horse retirement foundation, $12,000 went toward a holiday party for affected workers, and $15,000 was given to offset hospital costs for two trainers and an outrider.

Goodrich said that nearly 6,000 individuals and corporations donated, providing cash gifts of as little as $5.

“A clear tragedy was met with a historic response,” he said, reading from prepared remarks.

“It was unbelievable.”

Goodrich said the fund is in the process of being wound down, but that some donations continue to arrive.

He said hospitalization costs for trainers Martine Bellocq and Joe Herrick, both of whom suffered severe burns, have not been finalized. He said that counseling will be made available for backstretch workers who suffered mental difficulties from the fire.