07/11/2016 9:50AM

Track reports increase in attendance, decline in betting


ARCADIA, Calif. – Santa Anita concluded nearly six months of racing on Sunday with a 3 percent increase in attendance and a 5 percent decline in all-sources handle compared to a similar period last year, according to a statement from the track.

Track officials compared business from the track’s winter-spring meeting, which ran from Dec. 26 to early April, and its spring-summer meeting, which ran from early May through Sunday, with six consecutive months of racing from Dec. 26, 2014, to late June 2015. Unlike in 2015, Santa Anita had a three-week break this past April when racing shifted to Los Alamitos.

Track officials said the break in April and the absence of turf racing in the final three weeks of the spring-summer meeting because the course was being resodded contributed to the declines in business this year.

“I didn’t anticipate the loss of momentum for the three weeks off in April,” track senior vice president Joe Morris said earlier this month. “That was tough. We knew the last three weeks would be tough.”

With racing restricted to the main track, field sizes declined during the last three weeks of the meet. For the entire 40-day spring-summer meeting, which began May 5, fields averaged 7.26 starters per race compared with 7.84 in a similar period in 2015. For the last three weeks, from June 22 through Sunday, fields averaged 6.52 runners.

Nate Newby, Santa Anita’s vice president of marketing, said all-sources handle was down 1 percent through the final day of turf racing, June 19, before the decline accelerated. Newby said hot weather, with temperatures over 100 degrees on a few days in late June, limited attendance and contributed to the decline in handle.

The track did not release extensive attendance and handle figures and has not for several years.

“There were a lot of little things that contributed” to the decline, Newby said. “Last year, we finished really strong. The momentum wasn’t the same this year.”

Racing dates for 2017 have not been finalized, but Santa Anita has requested a continuous meeting beginning Dec. 26 this year. One likely scenario is for the track to run through late June without a break, as it did in 2014 and 2015, before Los Alamitos runs a two-week meeting in early July.

On the track, Rafael Bejarano won his 15th riding title at a Santa Anita meeting with 46 wins, six more than runner-up Flavien Prat. Bejarano was the leading rider at the track’s winter-spring meeting this year.

Phil D’Amato led all trainers with 25 wins, seven more than runner-up Bob Baffert. D’Amato was the leading trainer at the winter-spring meeting.

Pete and Kosta Hronis were recognized as leading owners, with seven wins and $634,068 in earnings.

Melatonin, who won the Gold Cup at Santa Anita on June 25, was named the meeting’s top horse.