ARCADIA, Calif. &ndash; Shortly after 1 p.m. last Friday, Santa Anita track announcer Frank Mirahmadi heard something during the running of the first race that had been missing for nearly 13 months during the coronavirus pandemic.Below his position atop the stands, a small crowd rooted home the runners in the opening race, led by race winner So Much Happy.&ldquo;If there was ever the right name, I think it was fitting,&rdquo; Mirahmadi reflected Sunday.&ldquo;I could hear it. It was such a nice feeling. You could hear a little bit of life out there. It&rsquo;s been a sad situation.&rdquo;Racing fans returned to Santa Anita on Friday and over the weekend for the first time since March 8, 2020. Los Angeles County government officials granted outdoor sporting events the opportunity to host small crowds beginning April 1 as part of a greater relaxing of restrictions for businesses during the pandemic. General manager Nate Newby said Friday&rsquo;s crowd was &ldquo;a little over 3,000.&rdquo; The Santa Anita Derby program on Saturday drew 8,246. Newby said Sunday&rsquo;s attendance was 4,096.&ldquo;People are just so happy to be back,&rdquo; Newby said. &ldquo;The energy in the building for 8,000 people was amazing.&rdquo;The track was allowed to host approximately 8,000 customers per day, a figure that could rise this weekend. Los Angeles County businesses recently were placed in a less restrictive tier that will allow for slightly larger audiences at Santa Anita and at other outdoor sporting events, such as the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball.Santa Anita stopped hosting customers on the second weekend of March in 2020, when the pandemic was forcing the cancellation of sporting events worldwide. The track ran five days that month without a crowd before the track was deemed a nonessential business by county government officials and ordered closed. Racing resumed for six weeks in mid&#45;May without an audience.When the brief autumn meeting began last September, only owners with horses entered to race were allowed to attend, a policy that continued at the start of the winter&#45;spring meeting on Dec. 26.Saturday&rsquo;s 12&#45;race program, which included six stakes, had an all&#45;sources handle of $24.2 million, the highest for a Santa Anita Derby program since 2007, the track said in a statement. The handle was the highest of the season, surpassing $23 million on Dec. 26.&ldquo;I was hopeful we&rsquo;d get over $20 million,&rdquo; Newby said.Saturday&rsquo;s 20&#45;cent Rainbow pick six drew a pool of $3,793,653 on a day that began with a carryover of $551,699 from Friday. The bet, which had a mandatory payout Saturday, paid $741 to 4,649 winning tickets.Track officials are in discussion with county government officials about terms for expanding audience limits. Customers must buy tickets on the track&rsquo;s website &ndash; through Santaanita.com/open &ndash; and must have a reserved seat.One possibility is a partial reopening of Sirona&rsquo;s bar, which overlooks the track&rsquo;s paddock.Newby said the grandstand portion of the track was sold out Saturday. Santa Anita resumes racing Saturday and Sunday, but Newby said he doesn&rsquo;t expect attendance to come close to last Saturday&rsquo;s crowd until Kentucky Derby Day, May 1.