Benoit Photo

Total Handle Jumps 8.7% at Santa Anita Meet

Southern California track showed across-the-board gains during 24-day fall stand.

Santa Anita Park posted gains across the board during the recently concluded 24-day fall meet, led by an 8.7% jump in all-sources handle when compared to the corresponding days in 2009, track officials reported.

This was the first year Santa Anita operated the fall meeting on its own. From 1968 to 2009, the meet was conducted by the Oak Tree Racing Association in a lease agreement with the track. Last year's Oak Tree stand was held at Hollywood Park.

The track used 2009 figures over 29 days for comparison since it was the last time the meet was held at Santa Anita. There were significant differences. Santa Anita ran five days per week in 2009 as opposed to four in 2011, and it hosted the two-day Breeders' Cup World Championships.

Breeders' Cup weekend figures from 2009 were excluded from the averages for comparison purposes although they were included in the 2011 totals. Santa Anita ran its own live card and offered simulcasting of the Cup races from Churchill Downs Nov. 4-5.

That made a big difference in the final averages, said Gina Lavo, Santa Anita's vice president of finance.

"We had a good meet, but up until that final weekend we were basically flat," she said. "The Breeders' Cup weekend really pulled us up."

The 2011 Santa Anita fall meet concluded Nov. 6 with an increase in the number of horses starting per race, from 7.7 in 2009 to 8.8 this fall, a 14.3% boost.

The all-source handle in 2011 totaled $216,520,068, an average of $9,151,292. That compared to $244,152,139 wagered in 2009, an average of $8,419,039.

The 2010 Oak Tree meet at Hollywood Park produced an all-sources average handle of $7,198,000, according to the limited data supplied by Oak Tree at the time.

On-track attendance at Santa Anita was up by 1.7% in 2011, averaging 7,009 compared to 6,889 for the 29-day stand in 2009. The total attendance this year was 168,226 compared to 199,790 two years ago.

On-track handle, which totaled $32,085,664 for an average of $1,336,903, climbed 6.2% over 2009, when the total wagered on-site was $36,499,424, an average of $1,258,602.

Haines credited field size with providing much of the positive handle news.

“Our field size was up considerably over the fall meet here in 2009 and that’s something that we look forward to building upon as we look to the winter/spring meet,” said George Haines, president of Santa Anita, in a statement released after the conclusion of the meet. “This is a result of two things, an improving horse inventory and the fact that our natural dirt main track is performing very well."

Lavo said total advance deposit wagering was up by 8.9% in 2011 when compared to 2009.

“The racing was outstanding throughout the meet and the fact our Breeders’ Cup horses performed so well is a good indication that the quality of our product remains world-class," Haines said.

On the track, John Sadler, with 14 wins, led the trainer standings by four over Mike Mitchell. In the jockey race, Rafael Bejarano nipped Joel Rosario, 32-31, for the title. Rosario and Bejarano have combined to win every major Southern California meet riding title since the 2007-08 Santa Anita winter/spring session.

Acclamation, whose only start produced a victory in the Clement L. Hirsch Turf Championship (gr. IIT) Oct. 2, was named horse of the meeting.