Santa Anita and Japan Record Major Tote Turnover Boosts


Whilst South African operators are battling to make headway with dwindling turnovers and disappointing attendances, Santa Anita's opening day of their season and Japan's Arima Kinen raceday led the way on Boxing Day and Christmas day respectively.

The Arima Kinen race, a Grade 1 contest over 2500m, is regarded as the world's biggest tote pool event, with some staggering amounts on display for pool players. Whilst at the opposite end of the world, the Californian track, Santa Anita, opened their season with an historic day at the races.

In the meantime in Florida, The Championships Meet at Gulfstream was not to be outdone either as they attracted good crowds and excellent handle.

The world's biggest betting event, the Arima Kinen, attracted a huge handle with a limited capacity in attendance due to covid restrictions. Japan's December highlight took a total of USD 585 million dollars (¥52,155,046,600) on the one race alone with the Trio and Trifecta combining for a total of 59% of the total race pool. Last year's pool sat at USD 430 million (¥49,097,246,400). The tote increase in a generally declining world wide pool betting environment is startling to a point. Note that Japan racing is essentially a gambling monopoly whilst other juristructions do not have that luxury. They heavily advertise on national TV, have an amazing and fanatical fan base as well as cater to their audience with great facilities and a day out. They have mastered the art of effective management to get to the sharp end of maintaining and managing their big events. A lesson for operators struggling to make it.

As a matter of interest, the record ever bet on the Arima Kinen was in 1996, won by SAKURA LAUREL. It was a huge ¥87,510,424,000 (US$770million). This was bet on the single race alone.

Santa Anita had a record day for their 26th December start with a record ever handle boosted by an appearance from the world's most popular jockey, Frankie Dettori and legendary trainer Bob Baffert winning 5 races. Loads of fancied horses came through during the card with two short priced favorites winning. This helps pools to churn and punters play more when winning. On course attendance was close to 41 500 with parking lots at the venue full from early on. It helps that the weathernwas great at this time of the year.

Celebrity Chef Bobby Flay, an active Breeder and owner of Pizza Bianca (a Breeders' Cup Grade 1 winner who ran in the American Oaks) described the crowds and day as 'insane'.

Coming back to Japan's Arima Kinen, it attracted 41000 on course which was limited to under 50k due to covid restrictions.

The pre covid attendance figures were as follows

2018: 100,189
2017: 100,720
2016: 98,626
2015: 121,319
2014: 115,878
2013: 124,782
2012: 101,237
2011: 115,065
2010: 120,213
2009: 115,327

The Record ever attendance was in 1990. This was a massive 177,779.

Gulfstream Park opened their Championship Meet on the same day as Santa Anita and that meet climaxes with the Pegasus World Cup (formerly the Donn Handicap).

There is no doubt some juristructions have found the secret to attracting both people and large pools to their events, it was no overnight success nor a fluke of management. The gambling monopoly situation helps a lot and so does good leadership and governance.

Simple message, it can be done.


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