The first meet at Hollywood Park with the artificial Cushion surface on the main track resulted in larger field sizes, larger purses, and increased handle, according to the track.The Cushion track, installed on the 1 1/8-mile main track at a cost of more than $8 million following the spring/summer meet, was credited with larger fields that helped generate a 19% increase in wagering on Hollywood Park races as well as handle increases across the board during the meet that ended Monday, Dec. 18.The average field size of 8.5 horses per race for the 36-day meeting was up 13% from 2005 and reversed a seven-year decline. Patrons responded by wagering approximately $6.5 million daily on Hollywood Park races, up dramatically from the average of $5.5 million in 2005.On-track handle averaged $1.4 million, up 8% from the figure of $1.3 million in during a 27-day meeting in 2005. All sources handle averaged approximately $9.8 million, up 14% from $8.6 million in 2005. Daily purses averaged $387,754, an increase of 16% from $333,386 in 2005."Horsemen have endorsed Cushion Track and the result is a much better product," general manger Eual G. Wyatt Jr. said. "We've had deep, competitive fields and players have responded at the windows."Advance deposit wagering showed the biggest increase, rising 27% to an average of $577,329 against an average of $453,547 in 2005. In turn, on-track attendance decreased 8% to an average of 4,775 compared to 5,199 a year ago. On-track per capita wagering rose 17% to $296 from $251.
Jockey Garrett Gomez returned to California after riding for Pletcher and others in the east most of the year and earned the jockeys' title, riding 35 winners. Gomez, leading candidate for an Eclipse Award as the nation's outstanding jockey, boosted his purse earnings to more than $21.4 million while riding the winners of five stakes races.Doug O'Neill saddled an autumn meet record 24 winners to top the trainers' standings. It was the fifth Hollywood Park title for O'Neill, who finished two ahead of John Sadler and two in three in front of defending champ Jeff Mullins.