The $750,000 American Oaks, granted grade I status in its first year of eligibility, joins the elite of North America's stakes races to highlight Hollywood Park's $9.2-million stakes schedule for the 2004 Spring/Summer Meet.The American Oaks, inaugurated in 2002, joins the historic Hollywood Gold Cup as co-richest race on the 2004 Hollywood Park stakes schedule, while becoming the eighth Grade I event on the calendar."We're thrilled the American Oaks has received grade one status at first opportunity," racing secretary Martin Panza said. "That does not happen very often. It speaks highly of the quality of the fields the first two years and it will make the race even more attractive to horsemen in the future."
The third running of the American Oaks is scheduled for July 3. In keeping with his philosophy of grouping major stakes, Panza has also slotted the $300,000 Triple Bend Breeders' Cup Handicap -- also a grade I race -- the $100,000-added Royal Heroine Stakes (gr. III) and the $100,000-added Flawlessly Stakes that day.The 65th running of the prestigious Hollywood Gold Cup (gr. I), a race won by the legendary Seabiscuit in Hollywood Park's inaugural year of 1938, is scheduled for July 10. Beginning with Seabiscuit, the 1 1/4-mile classic has been captured by eight horses en route to Horse of the Year honors. The versatile Congaree, winner for Stonerside Farm in 2003, did not earn national honors, but was a finalist in three categories.The Gold Cup program will also include the $400,000-added Swaps Breeders' Cup Stakes (gr. II) and the $150,000 A Gleam Handicap (gr. II).The Hollywood Park stakes schedule, which begins with the $75,000-added Harry Henson Stakes as the 65-day meet opens April 21, and finishes with the $150,000 Sunset Handicap (gr. II) as the meet concludes July 18, intensifies quickly. The fifth annual Citibank California Gold Rush, featuring $1.3 million in stakes races for California-bred horses, is scheduled for April 24.The first of the multiple stakes programs, featuring the $350,000 Jim Murray Memorial Handicap, is slated for May 8, the week between the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes. The 15th running of the Jim Murray Memorial Handicap will also mark the conclusion of the second annual Los Angeles Times Sports Journalism Workshop, honoring the late Pulitizer Prize-winning columnist. Several of the nation's top journalism students will cover the day's races, which also include the $150,000 Mervyn LeRoy Handicap (gr. II) and the $150,000 Los Angeles Times Handicap (gr. III).Storming Home won the 1 1/2-mile Jim Murray a year ago, then went on to capture the Grade I Charles Whittingham Memorial Handicap, which anchors another stakes tripleheader on June 12. The $350,000 Whittingham highlights a card which will also include the $250,000 Californian (gr. II) and the $175,000-added Hollywood Breeders' Cup Oaks (gr. II).Older horses preferring a shorter distance, can find the spot on Memorial Day as the $350,000-added Shoemaker Breeders' Cup Mile and the $350,000-added Gamely Breeders' Cup Handicap -- both Grade I races -- are scheduled. The $75,000-added Ack Ack Handicap is on the undercard.Other Grade I races on the Hollywood Park stakes schedule are the $250,000 Vanity Handicap on May 9, and the $250,000-added Milady Handicap on July 11.The Spring/Summer calendar includes 31 graded stakes races. In addition to the eight grade I events, there are ten grade II races and 13 grade III races.