Estimated Oak Tree Handle Dips by Nearly 12%

A late move to Hollywood Park complicated matters for 22-day meet that ended Oct. 31

Wagering at the recently concluded Oak Tree Racing Association meet, operated for the first time at Hollywood Park, was roughly off by nearly 12% for all sources.

Handle for the 22-day meet, which ended a difficult period for the venerable racing organization Oct. 31, declined over a comparable span during the 2009 meet at Santa Anita. Comparisons were complicated by a longer meet last year, 31 days, and the presence of two days of Breeders' Cup betting.

According to Hollywood Park, average daily wagering dipped by 3% in Southern California when compared to the first five weeks of the 2009 stand. Bigger declines came as a result of less wagering from out-of-state venues, creating an overall decrease of 11.9%.

Detailed figures for 2010, including on-track numbers, were not released by Oak Tree or Hollywood Park. The track reported that the average Southern California attendance was 10,771. The average daily Southern California handle was $3,741,922 and the all-sources average daily handle was $7,211,012.  Average daily purses of $370,640 were paid.

The decrease at Oak Tree was slightly more than the 10.6% decline in average daily handle generated during the past year for all California race meets, according to Jack Liebau, Hollywood Park president.

The average field size this year was 7.44 compared to 7.69 for the comparable period during the 2009 Oak Tree meet, Liebau reported

Last year’s Oak Tree meeting at Santa Anita had an average all-sources daily handle of $10,539,306, boosted by the running of the Breeders’ Cup.

After some tumultuous negotiations with Santa Anita last spring over holding the meet at the venue where it had been since 1969, Oak Tree was forced to scramble at the last minute when horsemen in August objected to the condition of the synthetic Pro-Ride main track at Santa Anita.

Without the horsemen's support, the California Horse Racing Board would not license the meet at Santa Anita and Oak Tree opened negotiations with Hollywood, where the meet began Sept. 30.

Sherwood Chillingworth, Oak Tree's executive vice president, said the 2010 meet went about as well as it could have, considering all the uncertainty.

“Having to move venues on 30 days notice would not have been possible without the cooperation of the staffs of Hollywood Park and Santa Anita," he said. “We thank them both. The meet could not have been successful without their joint dedication for the good of the industry.’’

Questions remain about the future, although Oak Tree and Hollywood announced an earlier agreement in principle for the 2011 meet. Santa Anita, which is installing a new dirt track, has also requested the traditional Oak Tree's dates. The CHRB is expected to decide who gets the dates at its next meeting Nov. 9 at Hollywood Park.

The 2010 meet ended  with Bob Baffert taking the training title with 11 wins and Rafael Bejarano winning the jockey's race with 35 victories.