Is Horse Racing Dead? Not in California

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Positive Reports from Earlier in the Year at Santa Anita

With a closing day Pick 6 pool of $6,022,040 adding an exclamation point to the conclusion of Santa Anita’s Winter/Spring Meet, all sources pari-mutuel handle for the 102-day run dating back to Dec. 26, exceeded the $1 billion mark, an eight percent increase over a year ago. With overall on-track attendance showing a one percent increase, that day’s all sources handle of $18,534,801, which included a near-$10 million increase over the corresponding date from a year ago, helped to contribute to a meet-end handle total of $1,018,268,136.

Santa Anita San Gabriel

copyright Cheryl Ann Quigley

Due to a more than $75 million increase in overall handle, Santa Anita announced a purse increase of 10 percent, which was effective June 1, 2018 through closing day, and which facilitated in attracting larger, more competitive fields to close the meet out.

“We’ve said this consistently, our customers are the economic engine that drives our business,” said Tim Ritvo, Chief Operating Officer for The Stronach Group (TSG). “We want to sincerely thank all of our fans, those here on-track and around the country for supporting our racing in such a substantial way from late December through today.

“We also want to thank the owners and trainers and all of our staff for their support and cooperation. We have many stake holders and together, we feel we can accomplish great things and build upon what we’ve been able to establish these past six months.

“Looking forward, our goals are to provide safe surfaces and larger, more attractive fields to bet on. We’ve very optimistic for the future and we look forward to welcoming everyone back for our Autumn Meet in late September.”

Hammerle Credits Turf Superintendent Martinez and Crew
Santa Anita’s Vice President, Racing and Racing Secretary, Rick Hammerle was quick to acknowledge the pivotal role Santa Anita’s turf course played in the Winter/Spring Meet’s overall success.

“We ran 70 more races on the grass than we did over the same time frame a year ago and we’ve got to give our Turf Superintendent Jesse Martinez and his crew a ton of credit,” said Hammerle. “Our customers want larger, competitive fields and grass racing really helps us to provide that. Without a doubt, the MVP’s of this meet are the main track and turf crews who gave us safe and consistent surfaces for the entire six-month season.

“To run as often as we did on the main track and turf, you need great people. Right from the top, with our Track Superintendent Dennis Moore overseeing everything, to Jesse and his guys, they really made this happen. Without their dedication and work ethic, and the commitment of their staff, we would not have been able to present as many turf races as we did this season and Santa Anita management is indebted to all of them.”

Highlights from the 2017-18 Winter/Spring Meet
Dec. 26—Opening Day
Total Handle: $18.3 million
Attendance: 40,023
City of Light, trained by Michael McCarthy, took the Grade I Malibu Stakes under Drayden Van Dyke. The Grade I La Brea went to Jerry Hollendorfer’s Unique Bella, who was ridden by Mike Smith.

Feb. 18—Bob Baffert’s Justify debuts in a seven furlong maiden special weight, winning by 9 ½ lengths under Drayden Van Dyke.

March 10—Santa Anita Handicap Day
Total Handle: $17.2 million
Attendance: 17,377
Accelerate, trained by John Sadler and ridden by Victor Espinoza, wins the Big ‘Cap by 5 ½ lengths. McCarthy’s City of Light takes the Grade I Triple Bend under Van Dyke by 1 ½ lengths. The Grade I Frank E. Kilroe Mile goes to Phil D’Amato’sBowies Hero, who won by a half length under Corey Nakatani.

March 11—Justify, in his second start, stretches out to a flat mile and defeats allowance company by 6 ½ lengths under Mike Smith.

April 7—Santa Anita Derby Day
Total Handle: $24.1 million
Attendance: 39,023
Justify remains unbeaten in the Grade I Santa Anita Derby, winning by three lengths under Smith. Trainer Bill Spawr’s Midnight Bisou, also ridden by Smith, takes the Grade I Santa Anita Oaks by 3 ½ lengths.

Spring portion of meet begins on April 13 and consists of 42 racing days, through June 24.

May 5—Kentucky Derby Day
Total Handle: $19.8 million
Attendance: 26,121
Justify becomes the 18th horse to use the Santa Anita Derby as a springboard to victory in the Kentucky Derby as Baffert and Smith again combine forces.

May 19—Preakness Day
Total Handle: $20 million
Attendance: 23,428
Ridden by Smith, Justify win his fifth straight overcoming a rugged speed duel and foggy conditions at Pimlico.

June 9—Belmont Day
Total Handle: $19 million
Attendance: 20,128
Justify joins Seattle Slew as only the second undefeated Triple Crown Champion. With Baffert and Smith again teaming for the win, the chestnut colt by Scat Daddy becomes the 13th overall Triple Crown Champ and Baffert’s second, along with American Pharoah, who did it in 2015.

June 24—Closing Day
Total Handle: $18.5 million
Attendance: 12,253
With a three-day combined Pick Six carryover of $821,858 coming into closing day, “$5,200,182 in “new” money was wagered, creating a massive total Pick Six pool of $6,022,040. This resulted in 208 winning tickets, each worth $20,255.20. The total closing day handle of $18,534,801 marked a nearly $10 million increase over the corresponding date from 2017.

Source: Santa Anita

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About Editor

Rich Nilsen is a 15-time qualifier to the National Horseplayers Championship (NHC), an event he has cashed in four times. He was the first player to finish in the top 10 twice. He was also a winner of a $24,000 package into Kentucky Derby Betting Championship I. A former executive with Brisnet.com, Rich is also a graduate of the University of Louisville Equine Business Program. He is founder of AGameofSkill.com, a site devoted to horse racing education and promotion.

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