‘A Sensational Day’: Santa Anita Derby Day Attendance, Handle Increase

The 81st running of the Grade I, $1-million Santa Anita Derby and 12 other races proved a huge success on every level Saturday, as an on-track crowd of 39,023 (an eight percent increase over last year’s 36,155) turned out for world-class performances in both the Santa Anita Derby and its 3-year-old filly counterpart, the Grade I, $400,000 Santa Anita Oaks.

In addition to an increase in on-track attendance, Saturday’s all-sources pari-mutuel handle of $24,170,879 was up 16 percent over last year, when 11 races were run. On-track handle of $3,494,979 was up seven percent.

“It was a sensational day and we want to thank all of our fans, on-track and across the country, for their support,” said Tim Ritvo, chief operating officer for The Stronach Group (TSG).  “The racing was tremendous all day.  We had world-class performances in both the Derby and the Oaks and it’s exciting to think that horses like Justify and Midnight Bisou are going to be representing us in some of the biggest races in the world next month.

“Santa Anita remains a crown jewel in American racing, and we’re proud we were able to put on such an incredible show.  Congratulations to today’s winners and again, a sincere ‘Thank You’ to our fans.  They provide the economic engine that makes this sport go and they supported us in a very big way today.  We hope to be worthy of their continued support in the months and years to come.”

Bob Baffert won his record eighth Santa Anita Derby with 4-5 favorite Justify, who won by three lengths over Bolt d’Oro.  Ridden by Mike Smith, Justify, a striking chestnut colt by Scat Daddy, is now undefeated in three starts and looms as the probable favorite in the Grade I Kentucky Derby on Saturday, May 5.  (The Santa Anita Derby trophy was presented by undefeated middleweight champion Gennady “GGG” Golovkin, who predicted Justify will go on to win the Kentucky Derby and thus be part of a “Daily Double” that will include his anticipated victory in a title defense later that night at the MGM in Las Vegas).

Equally as impressive was the Bill Spawr-conditioned Midnight Bisou, who rallied into the teeth of a slow pace to win the Santa Anita Oaks by 3 ½ lengths.  With Smith aboard for a Grade I double, this daughter of Midnight Lute, who is a pair of noses away from being undefeated in five career starts, could be favored in the Grade I Kentucky Oaks, to be run on Friday, May 4.

First post time for a nine-race card on Sunday is at 11:30 a.m.  For additional information, please visit www.santaanita.com or call (626) 574-RACE.

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