With strong out-of-state business leading the way, the Oak Tree Racing Association meet, which ended Nov. 4, posted significant gains in all sources mutuel handle over last year's figures. Out-of-state average daily handle was up 18% over last year and average daily total handle for the meet was up 9%.
Oak Tree officials directly attribute Santa Anita's new Cushion Track surface to their gains in off-track handle and increase in field size. Oak Tree average daily handle via Southern California Off Track Wagering (Scotwinc), was up 5%.
Cushion Track, which was installed over the summer at a cost of more than $10 million, was responsible along with other Southern California synthetics, for a substantive increase in the active horse inventory, resulting in 8.9 runners per race, up from last year’s 8.2.
“We’re very happy with the number of starters per race, which was close to nine and we are very pleased with the fact we had significantly fewer injuries,” said Oak Tree general manager George Haines. “The number and quality of horses we can make available to our fans to wager on is hugely important and these increases are attributable to Cushion Track and the other synthetics that our horses run on at Del Mar and at Hollywood Park. Another very significant byproduct of the larger fields is the fact that we had 10 Pick 6 carryovers.”
Oak Tree, which will play host to Breeders’ Cup XXV in 2008, will be the first track to conduct racing’s biggest event on a synthetic surface.
Although average daily on-track attendance was down 8%, off-track average daily attendance was up slightly (1%). On-track average daily handle, which was up 1% last year, was down 2%.
“As is the case every year, we face tremendous competition from other sports during this meet, said Oak Tree executive vice president and director Sherwood Chillingworth. "Although we would obviously prefer to have been up on-track, our numbers out-of-state were phenomenal and our Scotwinc increases were also very substantial."
A meet-high 26,970 were on hand Sept. 29, as three grade I stakes: The Yellow Ribbon, Oak Leaf and Goodwood were contested. Additionally fans received Oak Tree’s traditional collector’s item stein that day as well.
However, California Cup XVIII, which was run on Nov. 3, was arguably the high point of this year’s meet as an on-track crowd of 25,763 was on hand. The total Cal Cup Day handle of $16,852,200 was up more than $2.1 million from last year.
Santa Anita Park will reopen for live racing with its traditional winter/spring meeting Dec. 26 and will run through April 20, 2008.