Attendance up, handle dips at Santa Anita

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TwinSpires Staff

July 11th, 2016

Edited Santa Anita press release

Santa Anita’s combined Winter/Spring Meet drew to a close Sunday, with the track posting a 3 percent increase in on-track attendance as it gets ready to host the Breeders’ Cup World Championships for a record ninth time on November 4-5.

Although handle figures were on par with last year through April 10, Santa Anita was without live racing for a three-week period leading into May 5. In addition to the break in live racing, Santa Anita’s turf course was completely removed and replaced, with the hillside component addressed on June 6 and the turf oval on June 20. These factors combined, contributed to a 5 percent dip in all sources handle.

Although there was an element of short term sacrifice with no turf racing available for the final three weeks of the meet, the benefits of the newly installed Bandera Bermuda turf, which will be available for use opening day of the track’s Autumn Meet on September 30, will be of tremendous long term benefit to horsemen and fans alike.

The Spring Meet, which got underway May 5, received an immediate boost as Reddam Racing’s Nyquist, who is based at Santa Anita, became the fourth Kentucky Derby (G1) winner in the last five years to call The Great Race Place home. Additionally, $1 million Santa Anita Derby (G1) winner Exaggerator, who finished second to Nyquist in the Run for the Roses, was an impressive winner of the Preakness S. (G1) two weeks later on May 21.

Several top performances on the racetrack highlighted the 40-day stand:

Three-time Eclipse Award winning Beholder was a two-time winner at the meet, as she made her 6-year-old debut in the 1 1/16-mile Adoration S. (G3) on May 8, winning with consummate ease under Gary Stevens. She then shortened up a sixteenth of a mile and responded with an impressive 1 1/2-length tally in the Vanity Mile (G1) on June 4. Owned by B. Wayne Hughes’ Spendthrift Farm and trained by Richard Mandella, Beholder’s ultimate objective for 2016 is the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) here on November 5.

Owned by Rick Porter’s Fox Hill Farm, undefeated superstar filly Songbird followed up on her win in the Santa Anita Oaks (G1) on April 9 with a resounding 6 1/2-length score under Mike Smith in the 1 1/16-mile Summertime Oaks (G2) on June 18 for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer.

Owned by Susan Osborne’s Tarabilla Farms and trained by David Hofmans, Melatonin, who won the Santa Anita H. (G1) here on March 12, ran the best race of career in taking the Gold Cup (G1) at Santa Anita by 1 1/2 lengths under Joe Talamo on June 25, thus becoming the ninth horse in the 77-year history of the Gold Cup to win the coveted 1 1/4-mile “Double” in the same year.

Perennial leader Rafael Bejarano finished the Spring Meet with 46 wins, six more than runner-up Flavien Prat and thus took his 15th Santa Anita riding title. The 34-year-old native of Peru thus notched his 27th Southern California title and the 32nd overall in what has already been a remarkable career.

Phil D’Amato, 42, who won his first-ever training title at the conclusion of the 2015-16 Winter Meet on April 10, followed that up with 25-win performance at the Spring stand, seven better than runner-up Bob Baffert.

With seven wins, Hronis Racing, LLC registered their fourth overall Santa Anita owners’ title. Hronis Racing also led all owners by money won, with $634,068.

Beholder photo courtesy of Benoit.