Edited from a release
Santa Anita Park will offer $13 million in stakes money during its 67th season of racing, highlighted by the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I) on March 6, the $750,000 Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) on April 3, and the $3.6 million Sunshine Millions on Jan. 24.
Overall, 60 stakes races, 43 of them graded, will be contested during the 84-day winter/spring meeting that begins Friday, Dec. 26 featuring the grade I, $250,000 Malibu Stakes for 3-year-olds at seven furlongs.
"With the Breeders' Cup Sprint champion (Cajun Beat) and the Santa Anita Derby winner (Buddy Gil) both pointing to the Malibu, the new racing year should get off to an exciting start," said Santa Anita racing secretary Rick Hammerle. "We're looking forward to the second running of the Sunshine Millions, which was so well-received last year, and we're optimistic that Candy Ride and Medaglia d'Oro will square off in the Santa Anita Handicap."
Candy Ride and Medaglia d'Oro were leaders in the handicap division this year. Candy Ride, undefeated in six starts, has been idle since winning the Pacific Classic (gr. I) last August. Multiple graded stakes winner Medaglia d'Oro won last year's Strub Stakes (gr. II).
The Sunshine Millions, matching the best California-bred horses against the top Florida-breds in head-to-head competition, debuted on Jan. 25 of this year. Composed of four stakes at Santa Anita and four at Gulfstream Park, it is the richest day of state-bred racing in Thoroughbred history and produced outstanding handle and attendance figures in its debut.
The $1 million Sunshine Millions Classic, won by Florida-bred Best of the Rest in its inaugural running at Gulfstream Park, will be decided at 1 1/8 miles at Santa Anita on Jan. 24.
A springtime tradition since first run in 1935, the 67th edition of the Santa Anita Handicap is the marquee event of four graded stakes on the weekend of March 6-7.
In addition to the Big 'Cap, the $200,000 San Rafael Stakes (gr. II) and the $400,000 Kilroe Mile (gr. IIT) on turf will be decided on March 6. On March 7, older horses contest the $200,000 San Carlos Handicap (gr. II) at seven furlongs. The San Rafael, at one mile for 3-year-olds, is a major local stepping-stone to the Santa Anita Derby.
The Santa Anita Derby has been the most significant Kentucky Derby (gr. I) prep race in the country, having sent runners that have won or finished in the money in subsequent Triple Crown races in six of the last eight years. In addition to the San Rafael, other Santa Anita Derby preps include the $150,000 San Vicente Stakes (gr. II) at seven furlongs on Feb. 7 and the $250,000 San Felipe Stakes (gr. II) at 1 1/16 miles on March 13.
The Malibu Stakes is the first leg of the prestigious Strub Series. The Strub Series continues with the $200,000 San Fernando Breeders' Cup Stakes (gr. II) exclusively for 4-year-olds on Jan. 10 and concludes with the $300,000 Strub Stakes, also restricted to 4-year-olds, on Feb. 7.
The distaff version of the Strub Series, the La Cañada Series, swept last season by Got Koko, opens with the grade I, $250,000 La Brea Stakes on Saturday, Dec. 27. The grade II, $150,000 El Encino Stakes follows on Jan. 18. The series concludes with the grade II, $200,000 La Cañada Stakes on Feb. 14.
In addition to the Malibu, the Santa Anita Handicap, the Santa Anita Derby and the La Brea, other grade I stakes on the calendar are the $250,000 Santa Monica Handicap for fillies and mares, 4-years-old and up at seven furlongs on Jan. 25; the $250,000 Las Virgenes Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at one mile on Feb. 15; the $250,000 Santa Maria Handicap for fillies and mares, 4-years-old and up at 1 1/16 miles on Feb. 16; the $300,000 Santa Anita Oaks for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/16 miles on March 13; and the $300,000 Santa Margarita Handicap for fillies and mares, 4-years-old and up at 1 1/8 miles on March 14.
The traditional closing feature on April 18 is the grade II, $300,000 San Juan Capistrano Invitational Handicap for older horses at about 1 3/4 miles on turf. The San Juan Capistrano is the longest graded stakes in the United States.