Santa Anita: ‘Strong start’ to meet with across-the-board gains by Press Release|01.05.201201.06.2012|7:48am7:37pm Santa Anita’s opening day crowds are betting less money on average Santa Anita Park, which opened its winter/spring meeting with an on-track crowd of 44,579 on Dec. 26, posted significant across the board gains through the first six days of its 79-day meet according to racetrack officials. Through six days, on-track attendance is up 21 percent, while on-track handle is up 11 percent. “Our opening day crowd was the biggest it's been since 1994 and our pari-mutuel figures have been up on-track and across the country,” said Santa Anita President George Haines. “We're obviously very pleased to be off to such a strong start and we want to sincerely thank our fans and horsemen for making this possible. It's great to be able to renew acquaintances with so many of them and we've also seen a lot of new people here in the first week as well. We can't thank them enough and we want all of them to know that customer service continues to be a huge priority for us here at Santa Anita. “We've been lucky with the weather and our field size has been good. We've been able to average nine horses per race and there's no question that has provided better gambling opportunities for our players.” In addition to large on-track gains, Santa Anita's out-of-state handle skyrocketed, showing an 18 percent increase over a year ago. Southern California Off Track Wagering Inc. (SCOTWinc) handle showed a 10 percent increase and all sources Santa Anita handle was up 14 percent through week-one. “By any accounting, these are substantial increases,” said Haines. “Our long range weather forecast is good and we've got good momentum. We have a number of promotions slated for the month of January and we've got a solid stakes schedule ahead as well. We hope to sustain this momentum and we'll continue to market and promote very aggressively.” Santa Anita begins a four-day race week on Thursday with first post time at 1:00 p.m. The Grade III, $100,000 Sham Stakes for 3-year-olds and the Grade III, $150,000 San Pasqual Stakes for older horses will highlight Saturday's card. For more racing and promotional information or to make dining and seating reservations, go to www.santaanita.com, or call (626) 574-RACE.