(edited press release)
The Oak Tree Racing Association’s 40th annual meeting finished strong as the Breeders’ Cup World Championships, run Oct. 24-25, turned around a meet that had been negatively effected by the sluggish local and national economy.
The Breeders’ Cup World Championships were held as a two-day, 14-race event for the first time at Santa Anita, and the results were bullish, as on-track attendance reached 31,257 on Friday and 51,331 on Saturday. All-sources handle on Friday was $47,863,774, and on Saturday all-sources handle reached $107,610,778. The two-day all sources handle of $155,474,553 was a 5.5% increase over last year’s championship at Monmouth Park.
"By all accounts, Breeders’ Cup 25 was a tremendous ‘shot in the arm’ for this sport and Oak Tree at Santa Anita," said Oak Tree Director and Executive Vice President Sherwood Chillingworth. "The Pro-Ride synthetic main track performed beautifully, and we did not have a single injury in the 21 races we ran on Friday and Saturday. It was imperative that we have a safe, competitive two-day event on national television (ABC and ESPN), and we did."
With the two-day Breeders’ Cup leading the way, overall attendance and handle figures for the 2008 meeting exceeded last year’s numbers, despite the fact this meet consisted of five fewer racing days.
Aside from the Breeders’ Cup, however, comparative attendance and handle figures were down, as on-track attendance declined two percent and on-track mutuel handle was down 14%.
"The success of the two-day Breeders’ Cup obviously helped us tremendously, and we feel we can do even better next year," said Chillingworth. "From opening day (Sept. 24) on, we had great racing and outstanding participation from the horsemen, but the economy unquestionably hurt us considerably prior to and through the Breeders’ Cup.
"People and businesses are hurting across board, and it seems no one is immune to the effects of this troubled economy. The fact that we turned it around here on closing weekend with the Breeders’ Cup is very encouraging, and we are certainly hopeful that we’re going to be operating in a better economic climate next year," he added.
Sunday’s closing day on-track attendance reached 21,241, a dramatic increase over last year’s closing day figure of 10,904.
Santa Anita Park will reopen for live racing with its traditional winter/spring meeting on Dec. 26 and will run through April 19, 2008.