Santa Anita's current Winter Meet, which opened with a bang the day after Christmas as 40,023 fans enjoyed spectacular weather and a full complement of graded stakes action, showed a substantive 16 percent gain in all sources handle and a nine percent uptick in on-track handle over the first five racing days. With average field size at 9.36 horses per race, punters wagered $56.7 million compared to $48.7 million a year ago.
Santa Anita's five-day opening week concluded with New Year's Day this past Monday and on-track business has been brisk throughout the facility, evidenced not only by the increase in on-track handle, but also by a 2 ½ percent gain in on-track attendance.
With the arrival this past summer of The Stronach Group's COO, Tim Ritvo, a major emphasis has been placed on shoring up competitive field size, which provides significantly better gambling opportunities—a key factor in growing pari-mutuel handle.
Additionally, Santa Anita's Winter Meet wagering menu has undergone significant changes, with Trifectas lowered from one dollar to 50 cents, rolling one dollar Super High Fives and a 50 cent Late Pick 5 all added, with the goal of increasing interest among casual and new fans while offering potentially lucrative pools to more seasoned players.
With upsets the order of the day on opening day, there was a Pick Six carryover into day two, Friday, of $95,855 resulting in a total Pick Six pool of $467,687 which ended up being distributed among 16 winning tickets that each paid $15,673.20.
Day three, Saturday, also ended with a Pick Six carryover, this time in the amount of $72,970. This resulted in a total Pick Six pool on Sunday of $379,364 and a payout of $39,442.80 on six winning tickets.
Santa Anita's Single Ticket Pick Six Jackpot went untouched through the first five days, creating an enticing Jackpot carryover of $134,364 into this Friday, Jan. 5.
On the racing side, presumptive Eclipse Award Champion Apprentice Evin Roman leads the jockey standings through five days with seven wins, while Hall of Famer Kent Desormeaux is atop the stakes-won department, with three added money victories.
In the trainers' division, Peter Miller has four wins, and thus has a one-win advantage over William Morey, Vladimir Cerin, Mark Glatt and Jerry Hollendorfer. Phil D'Amato has two stakes wins, one better than a total of eight trainers; Cerin, Glatt, Hollendorfer, Richard Baltas, Peter Eurton, Mike Puype, Ken McPeek and Michael McCarthy.
Santa Anita will offer free parking and admission for “dark day” simulcasting each Wednesday throughout the remainder of the Winter/Spring Meet, with admission gates opening at 10 a.m. Wagering and food and beverage service will be available on both days in Sirona's Sports Bar and the Paddock Room. (With no live racing, simulcast wagering is being offered today as well).
Live racing resumes on Friday with first post time for an eight-race card at 12:30 p.m.
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