Monday night's opening night of the 13-day Orange County Fair racing program at Los Alamitos Race Course was hailed, cautiously, as a success.
The meet, in its 10th season, features eight thoroughbred and two quarter horse races Monday through Saturday.
Monday night, Los Alamitos drew 9,262, surpassing last year's opening mark of 6,284.
Which was enough to put smiles--guarded, mind you--on the faces of the Fair racing officials. They're happy about the improved attendance, but that is tempered with the knowledge that last year's meet--run during the fall--collected a record-low handle of $14 million. Last year's poor showing moved Fair officials to lobby the California Horse Racing Board for a change of dates to summer.
They complained that during the Fall meet, held from Oct. 21 to Nov. 4, the Fair had to compete with from the popular Oak Tree meet at Santa Anita, baseball's World Series, Monday night football and even Halloween.
On Oct. 31 last year, Los Alamitos drew just 3,967, with a handle of $679,527.
"It seemed like everything was going against us," said Clint Hoose, Fair president. "That's when I really pressed hard to have dates in the summer."