Friday, January 02, 2009


“FREE FRIDAYS” ATTRACTS SANTA ANITA CROWD OF 9,269


ARCADIA, Calif. (Jan. 2, 2009) – Before an on-track crowd of 9,269 on the first of Santa Anita’s weekly Free Fridays promotion, 3-2 second-choice Victorina mounted a strong finish to run past You Lift Me Up and capture the eighth running of the $80,900 Paseana Handicap for fillies and mares by 2¼ lengths with Rafael Bejarano aboard.

A widely-traveled Northern California-based mare who has been off-the-board only three times in 24 starts, the 6-year-old Florida-bred negotiated the 1 1/8-mile distance in 1:43.92 with Island Hop checking in third. Double Trouble, the even-money favorite in the field of six, never threatened while finishing fourth.


“We brought Victorina down here from Golden Gate because we wanted to give her a chance to prove herself,” said trainer Greg Gilchrist, who indicated that the $500,000 Sunshine Millions Distaff at Santa Anita on Jan. 24 would be next for her.

Victorina, who paid $5, $3.20 and $2.80, earned $45,789 to elevate her career earnings for the Estate of Henry J. Aleo to $627,455 from an overall record of 13-6-2 in her 24 races. Pacesetter You Lift Me Up, ridden by Mike Smith, paid $5.40 and $4. Island Hop, who finished three-quarters of a length behind under Martin Garcia, returned $5 to show.

The on-track attendance was the largest on a Friday at Santa Anita since Dec. 28, 2001, when 11,046 turned out. Santa Anita President Ron Charles credited the new weekly promotion which offers fans free admission on Fridays along with box seats as available and a $1 menu covering hot dogs, beer, sodas and popcorn.

“We are very pleased with the way this promotion has helped kickoff the New Year,” commented Charles. “As we have said, we fully intend to offer our fans outstanding value, across the board, here at Santa Anita. Judging by the crowd and the excitement we had here today, people are aware of this and we’re hoping our Free Fridays will get better and better.

“In these challenging economic times, we know we have to be more competitive than ever, and we also know that the best way to build our fan base is by getting people to Santa Anita and letting them experience live racing in this unbelievably beautiful setting.”

The 42nd running of the Grade III, $100,000 Monrovia Handicap, for fillies and mares at 6 ½ furlongs down Santa Anita’s hillside turf course, heads Saturday’s nine-race program that gets underway at 12:30 p.m.


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