(from Santa Anita)
A total of 75 stakes, beginning with the $250,000 Malibu Stakes (gr. I) on opening day Dec. 26, will be featured during the 84-day 2008-09 season at Santa Anita Park.
The 72nd winter/spring meet includes the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I) on March 7 and the $750,000 Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) on April 4, are the traditional highlights.
Initiated in 2003, the Sunshine Millions will once again be hosted by Santa Anita on Jan. 24. Run at Gulfstream Park in Florida and at Santa Anita, the Sunshine Millions is comprised of eight races worth $3.6 million, making it the richest day of state-bred racing in Thoroughbred history. It matches the best California-bred horses against the best horses bred in Florida. The $1 million Sunshine Millions Classic will be run this year at Gulfstream.
“We feel this is the most comprehensive stakes schedule in the country,” said Rick Hammerle, Santa Anita's racing secretary . “We made some adjustments with some of our 3-year-old races last year and they were very well received. This year, we will once again be offering 10 grade I stakes, which should provide some great racing for everyone.”
Santa Anita’s roster of grade I events include the La Brea Stakes for 3-year-old fillies on Dec. 27, the Santa Monica Handicap for older fillies and mares on Jan. 31, the Las Virgenes Stakes for 3-year-old fillies on Feb. 7, the Santa Maria Handicap for older fillies and mares on Feb. 14, the Frank E. Kilroe Mile on March 7, the Santa Anita Oaks for 3-year-old fillies on March 7, and the Santa Margarita Handicap for older fillies and mares on March 14.
Hammerle also noted that two stakes, the Daytona Handicap Feb. 15 and the Thunder Road Handicap Feb. 7, will be run for the first time as grade III stakes.
“The Thunder Road is for 4-year-olds and up at one mile on the grass and this is a good steppingstone to the Kilroe Mile,” said Hammerle.
“The Daytona Handicap is also for older horses and it’s run at 6 1/2 furlongs down our hillside turf course. Although it’s early in the year, it will provide horsemen with an opportunity to earn points for the newly-created Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint, which was well received here in October. The Turf Sprint will once again be a part of the Breeders’ Cup program next fall at Oak Tree,” Hammerle added.
Chronologically, Santa Anita’s stakes schedule is virtually the same as that of last year.
“As far as the timing and sequence of our races, we didn’t make any changes,” said Hammerle. “With the Malibu on opening day, and given the fact our Pro-Ride synthetic main track performed so well at Oak Tree, we’re confident we’re going to get off to a good start.”