Santa Anita Park's all-sources handle for its 103-day racing season showed a 2.5% increase according to track officials.

Santa Anita Park's all-sources handle for its 103-day racing season showed a 2.5% increase according to track officials.

Anne M. Eberhardt

Santa Anita Reports Handle, Attendance Gains

Purses paid and field size decline for this season's meet.

Santa Anita Park's all-sources handle for its 103-day racing season, which began Dec. 26 and concluded July 4, showed a $23.5 million increase over last season, a 2.5% gain, according to track officials.

Officials also said on-track attendance increased 8%—the fourth consecutive year Santa Anita has posted attendance gains—but they did not release on-track handle numbers.

"We're encouraged by our numbers and we remain committed to working with our horsemen to do even better and to provide our customers with the kind of world-class racing they expect to see here at Santa Anita," said Joe Morris, senior vice president of West Coast operations for The Stronach Group. "We finished strongly (these) past few weeks, because we were able to increase our field size, which makes for better opportunities for our players."

Santa Anita cancelled two Thursday cards during the meet because of lack of entries, then modified its schedule in June to eliminate two more Thursday cards in an effort to increase field size.

"Field size will continue to be a top priority," Morris said.

The comparable dates the last two seasons at Santa Anita require significant context. Both seasons were 103 days, but in 2017 the Arcadia, Calif., track faced hurdles with higher-than-expected rainfall during the winter. In 2016 Santa Anita did not have turf racing for the final three weeks of its meet, while the turf course was being replaced in advance of the Breeders' Cup. In 2016 there was also a three-week interlude in April when the Southern California circuit went to Los Alamitos Race Course. In 2017 Santa Anita ran straight through, from Dec. 26-July 4.

In the same amount of dates this season, Santa Anita ran 10 more races (918 compared with 908) over last season, but paid less in purses ($50,630,645 compared with $51,541,153, a decrease of nearly $9,000 per day). Field size also fell to an average of 7.57 from 7.77 last season.