Fairplex Meet Hurdles Handle Mark Again

Fairplex Park set a record for total handle during its 16-day run in 2006 that ended Sept. 25 when it averaged more than $7.1 million daily. It was the second straight year the Los Angeles County Fairgrounds racetrack surpassed its previous handle mark and the third time in the past four years.

"All the stars aligned correctly for the second year in a row," said George Bradvica, Fairplex's racing manager. "We had the best weather, the best field size, the best jockey colony, and the safest racetrack we've ever had. The fair was the story. It is very strong (in attendance) this year. That really helps."

This year's final all-source handle figure was $113,919,743, up .26% over 2005's total of $113,624,214.

In spite of the continued strong figures, Bradvica said Fairplex has backed away from a $100 million renovation plan "until there's a decision made on the future of Hollywood Park." The project would include expanding the five-eighths track to one mile and adding an inside turf course.

On-track handle dipped by 0.5% in spite of a slight 1.1% increase in attendance. Out-of-state wagering jumped 3.4%, however, to fuel the overall increase.

The gain could largely be attributed to a record three-day pick six carryover that concluded Sept. 20 with a $3,941,142 million pool. Fairplex set a single-day record when $10,390,081 was wagered.

"That's the best marketing plan you can have – a three-day carryover," Bradvica said.

Average field size was 8.31 horses per Thoroughbred race. Fairplex can accommodate no more than 10 runners per race. He said owners and trainers were encouraged to run their horses because of the excellent condition of the running surface. He credited track superintendent Steve Wood for that.

Mel Stute, Fairplex's all-time leading trainer, saddled 30-1 longshot Quick Little Miss to an upset victory in the $130,000 Barretts Debutante for 2-year-old fillies Sept. 16. One day later it was Mel's son, Gary Stute, who sent Roman Commander out to post a 30-1 shocker in the $130,000 Barretts Juvenile.
Fairplex's all-time leading rider, Martin Pedroza, led the way in the jockey standings by bagging 27 winners over the course of the 16-day meeting. It was Pedroza's eighth-consecutive riding title at the fair, and his ninth overall. Pedroza also took three stakes races, scoring aboard Sailors Sunset in the opening day Foothill, with Plug Me In in the Derby Trial, and with Sensational Score in the Pomona Derby.

Jeff Mullins won his third training title at the fair by sending a record 17 horses to the winners' circle, surpassing the mark set by Doug O'Neill in 2004 for most wins in a season.