Santa Anita Opener Biggest in Years
Photo: Benoit Photography
Santa Anita on opening day of their 2011/2012 Winter/Spring meet.

A crowd of 44,579 thronged to Santa Anita for its opening-day card Dec. 26, the largest since 1994. An hour after The Factor won the Malibu Stakes (gr. I), last race on the card, the traffic still clogged the surface streets surrounding the racetrack, a rare event in recent years.

On-track handle hit $4,246,751.90, an increase of 10% over the 2010 figure of $3,851,594. All-sources handle was $12,866,300.60, up 9% from last year’s $11,707,276. Total attendance, including California’s ITW sites, was 54,439.

“It was just a great day; the weather was perfect,” said George Haines, president of Santa Anita. “We had a lot of first-time visitors. You see a lot of young people.”

Haines said that Santa Anita’s marketing for this year’s opener emphasized the Internet and social media, as well as an increased billboard presence in the Los Angeles area. Also, some fans were lured too the track by the free calendar that is a Santa Anita opening-day tradition.

“Let’s face it, Santa Anita is a great entertainment value,” Haines added. “You bring your family to the track. It doesn’t cost that much to get in, in comparison with other venues, and you get a lot of entertainment for your money. And I think we’ve proved that here today.”

In addition to its Internet marketing campaign, Santa Anita launched a mobile application available to people who signed up for the track’s Thoroughbreds frequent-fan program and funded a mobile wagering account. Haines said that about 100 people signed up during opening day, the first time the application was available.

“It takes a little time to build on that,” Haines said. “It’s a great deal for people, especially with an iPad. It’s the wave of the future, I believe.”

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