Hollypark on-track attendance up slightly

Hollywood Park made it two consecutive SoCal meets that have shown an upswing in on-track attendance, however slight it may be, when the track announced on closing day Sunday that on-track crowds were up 0.8 percent for the 55-day spring-summer meet. This follows a 1 percent hike by Santa Anita for its 2008-09 winter-spring meet.

Of course, it’s no surprise that Hollypark’s on-track handle was down 9.1 percent and all-sources handle dipped 11 percent. We’re in hard economic times, folks, and a lot of people don’t have the money to be risking at the race track. They’re still going though, choosing horse racing as a means for entertainment, which is a positive for management.

There’s no doubt that Santa Anita’s Free Fridays promotion, unveiled for the first time last meeting, and Hollypark’s popular Friday night concerts after the races were a major factor in both tracks showing slight increases in on-track attendance. Now the powers that be just need to come up with additional ways to lure potential fans to the races.

According to a Hollywood Park press release, handle showed a significant increase when the track went to a four-day race week from a five-day week in mid-May because of a shortage in the horse population.

“Judging by results across the country, we feel we did OK — the best we could under the circumstances,” Hollywood Park president Jack Liebau said in the release. “We feel the move to a four-day week was the correct course of action. At the time business was off close to 20 percent and a purse cut would have been necessary had we continued to run five days a week.”

Santa Anita’s on-track handle fell 3 percent this past season, and all-sources handle was down 12 percent from a year ago.

Santa Anita’s gain in on-track attendance was the first in the Southland since the 2007 Del Mar meet, and Hollywood Park kept the streak alive. Now the pressure’s on Del Mar to see if it can give SoCal racing a hat trick.

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