Santa Anita Registers Increased Handle

Santa Anita Park bucked the national trend by registering a 3% total handle increase.

Santa Anita Park bucked the national trend by registering a 3% increase in total handle at its winter-spring meeting.

The Stronach Group-owned Southern California track released final handle figures for its winter-spring meeting April 25. Handle improved 3% to $710,813,700 compared to $690,213,957 in 2012. That increase came during a first quarter that saw handle decline 2.81% nationally, according to Equibase figures.

Total handle was up even though Santa Anita raced 71 days compared with 72 days last year. Total average daily handle improved 4.4% to $10,011,461 compared to $9,586,305 one year ago.

Average daily on-track handle at Santa Anita declined 8.5% to $1,312,705 compared to $1,434,850 last year. That dip reflected a drop in on-track attendance of about 9%.

The track registered its biggest gains in advance deposit wagering, jumping 35.4% in daily average, or from $1,163,854 in 2012 compared to $1,575,286 in 2013. This was the first year that Santa Anita's races were broadcast over the racing network and ADW provider TVG. Previously, races from Santa Anita were broadcast only over the Stronach-owned HRTV.

Santa Anita also registered an improvement in starters per race at 8.08 after recording a 7.84 average last year.

Santa Anita Derby Day, April 6, proved to be the high-point of the meet, as an on-track crowd of 33,005 wagered $4,047,710, which contributed to a total pari-mutuel handle of $19,897,306. That was a $2 million increase over last year.

Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert finished the meet with 38 wins to take his third consecutive Santa Anita training title and record 11th overall. Baffert prevailed in a close contest that saw three trainersJohn Sadler, Jerry Hollendorfer and O'Neillfinish tied for second with 35 wins.

Baffert’s biggest win came in the 76th running of the Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I) when favored Game On Dude, who was also named horse of the meeting, romped by a record 7 3/4 lengths to become just the fourth horse to ever win the Big ’Cap twice.

Jockey Rafael Bejarano registered his fourth title as Santa Anita’s leading rider with 93 wins, 31 more than second-place finisher Edwin Maldonado. Bejarano had finished second in the riding standings the previous two seasons.

Kosta Hronis' Hronis Racing led all owners for the second year in a row with 11 victories.