Santa Anita wrapped up its 74th season Sunday, but it didn’t come with a nice little bow on top. Yes, the 18,018 who showed up on track on closing day was a nice send-off, but the handle figures and the inconsistent new main dirt track cast a dark cloud over the meeting as a whole.
Track officials reported average daily on-track handle was down 3 percent and average daily all-sources handle was down 9 percent.
But when you look at the numbers overall, this is what you get, remembering that this year’s meeting was eight days shorter than in 2009-10:
Win/Place/Show wagering — down $36.3 million, or 19.2 percent
Exotic wagering — down $86.6 million, or 21.6 percent
Total wagering — down $122.9 million, or 20.8 percent
Wagering per race — down $108,000, or 12.4 percent
Wagering per day — down $891,000, or 11.8 percent
Field size this year was down from 7.81 horses per race to 7.63. So much for the bigger fields that the increased takeout in exotics were supposed to bring.
The horseplayers’ boycott did nothing to help Santa Anita’s business this year, and to management’s credit they plan to meet with the bettors in the near future to discuss ways to improve the product.
Also, the terrrible weather back east in December and early January plainly took its toll in terms of Santa Anita’s out-of-state business, as did closure of the New York Off-Track Betting hubs.
There were 19 fatalities over the dirt track — 12 during racing, including one horse that fell over a downed horse that had clipped heels, and seven in the morning, including one horse dying after a collision with another horse and one sudden death.
Dr. Rick Arthur, equine medical director of the California Horse Racing Board, attributes much of the inconsistency to the fact the track was not given enough time to settle. He believes it will perform better for Santa Anita’s autumn meet beginning Sept. 28.
On a brighter note, the Bob Baffert-trained Game on Dude was voted Horse of the Meet in Santa Anita’s annual media poll for his victory in the $750,000 Santa Anita Handicap. Game on Dude was ridden by Chantal Sutherland, who became the first female jockey to win the Big ‘Cap.
Baffert won his record ninth training title and became the first trainer since Jimmy Jones in 1953 to win the Santa Anita Handicap and Santa Anita Derby (Midnight Interlude) in the same year.
Joel Rosario unseated Rafael Bejarano and won his first Santa Anita riding title. It was his sixth in Southern California.
Results of the 2010/11 Santa Anita media poll:
Horse of the Meet: Game on Dude
Older Horse: Game on Dude
Older filly/mare: Always a Princess
Grass horse: Fluke
Grass filly/mare: Cambina
3-year-old: Midnight Interlude
3-year-old filly: Cambina
Claimer: Separate Forest
Trainer: Bob Baffert
Jockey: Joel Rosario
Race: San Luis Obispo Handicap
Owner: Arnold Zetcher
Achievement: Baffert’s Big Cap/Derby double