Handle and Field Sizes Increase During 8-Day Winter Meet at Los Alamitos
Sunday was a big day of racing at Los Alamitos, the small race course in Orange County. California Chrome returned to his home track and delivered a special performance for the faithful fans, winning the Winter Challenge Stakes by 12 lengths.
That performance left Los Alamitos racing executive Brad McKinzie upbeat as well as the tiny track is expected to show a 16% all-sources handle increase over last year’s winter meet. The 8-day meet also saw solid gains in field sizes.
“The key to the meet was field sizes and competitive races,” McKinzie said. “(Racing secretary) Bob Moreno—you have to give him all the credit. Filling these races with no turf course and to almost have eight starters a race is quite an accomplishment.”
Field size rose to an average of 7.89 starters per race from 7.13 over the previous Winter. The 7.89 figure is the highest for any meet since thoroughbred racing returned to Los Alamitos in July, 2014.
“This was really a serendipitous meet. We had everything fall our way, but even before Chrome day, after the first week of the meet, we were up 13%. We were up every day substantially over last winter and the only thing I can point my finger to is the field size and that we put on a better show than last year.
“California Chrome kicked us into a new stratosphere, as far as how the meet went, but we’re going to wind up about 16% up. And who is up 16% these days?”
But the challenges of the industry and competing with bigger tracks is still a nagging issue. On-track wagering is not meeting expectations.
“Ontrack continues to be challenging and it’s the most frustrating piece of this whole exercise,” said McKinzie.
Still, the next-to-last day of the Winter meet also saw record handle in the Players’ Pick 5, the early and the late Pick 4 as well as the Pick Six.
Buoyed by a three-day carryover of $308,191, the Pick Six attracted $1,250,238 in new money. The total pool $1,558,329 easily eclipsed the previous record of $612,408 Dec. 7, 2014.
The Dec. 17 pool for the Pick 5 – an extremely popular wager with a low takeout rate of 14% – was $410,783, bettering the $370,539 wagered May 1, closing day of the 2016 Spring meet.
The pool for the early Pick 4 was $166,416, surpassing the $159,988 total Dec. 13, 2014 while the late Pick 4 – which ended with the Winter Challenge – handled $597,105, easily bettering the $470,930 bet July 11, 2015.
Bob Baffert, Peter Miller and Mike Puype shared the meet training title with four wins apiece. It was the fourth time Baffert has either led or shared the crown at Los Alamitos since July, 2014.
Joe Talamo won the jockey title with seven wins while Tyler Baze won six races.