Stewart Elliott

Stewart Elliott

Anne M. Eberhardt

Elliott Wins Riding Title at Los Alamitos

Bob Baffert and Doug O'Neill tied for training title.

Jockey Stewart Elliott won his first Southern California riding title, while Hall of Famer Bob Baffert and Doug O'Neill shared training honors at the Los Angeles County Fair meet at Los Alamitos Race Course, which concluded Sept. 25.

Baffert and O'Neill finished the season with five victories apiece. It was the fifth meet since Thoroughbred racing returned to Los Alamitos in July 2014 that O'Neill has either been the sole leader or co-leader, while Baffert has led or shared the crown three times.

Elliott, 51, finished with 12 wins in 49 starts, two more than runner-up Santiago Gonzalez.

The Canadian-born Elliott was a three-time leading rider (2001-03) at the former Philadelphia Park—now known as Parx Racing—and also topped the standings at the Meadowlands in 2004.

"Coming into the meet, my agent (Mark North) told me things looked real good," Elliott said. "It helped to get off to a fast start, winning three opening day (Sept. 8) and then two the next day.

"The spring meet was the first time I rode on this track, which has a little different shape, and it is just a matter of getting used to it. I think this definitely gives us momentum going into Santa Anita.''

The meet ended with a decline in average daily handle.

Through Sunday, the average all-sources handle was an estimated $3,918,306 compared with $4,110,983 in 2015. Last year's fall season was 10 days, two fewer than 2016, as Santa Anita Park raced on the corresponding weekend 12 months ago.

Complete figures for the meet will be available later in the week.

Although the numbers increased in the final week of the season, average field size declined slightly over the previous year, dropping from 7.64 starters per race to 7.33 in 2016.

"It's all about the product you put out on the racetrack and for this meet, it was hard,'' said Brad McKinzie, vice president and general manager of the Los Alamitos' Thoroughbred racing. "This was the toughest fall meet we've had in terms of entries.

"We had a very good day (Sept. 24) because we put a good product out on the track. This meet almost mirrored our spring (April 14-May 1) meet. We started off slow, got better, and our third and final week was the best.

"Even with the short fields, the racing was good. I don't know if it was just me, but we had more close finishes than I could remember and the Los Alamitos Derby (gr. II) was a good race.''

Thoroughbred racing will return to Los Alamitos in December. The eight-day season will begin Dec. 8 and continue through Dec. 18.

McKinzie said the Dec. 10 program will offer a pair of grade I races for 2-year-olds—the Los Alamitos Futurity and the Starlet for fillies.

Both the Futurity and the Starlet are holdovers from the previous two winter meets at Los Alamitos, after being run previously (1981-2013) at the now-closed Hollywood Park.