Santa Anita releases winter stakes schedule

Santa Anita, which will embark upon its 76th winter/spring meeting on December 26, has announced it will offer a total of 41 graded stakes over the course of its 71-day meet, beginning with the opening day Malibu and La Brea which will serve as the first of nine Grade 1 events. Both stakes will offer purses of $300,000 and will be run at seven furlongs.

Joining the Malibu, for three-year-olds, and La Brea, for three-year-old fillies, on opening day is the Grade 2, $150,000 Sir Beaufort Stakes for three-year-olds at one mile on turf.

The Grade 1, $750,000 Santa Anita Handicap on March 2, and the Grade 1, $750,000 Santa Anita Derby on April 6, trace their origins to Santa Anita's founding and once again figure prominently among the track's marquee offerings. Also included on Santa Anita's Grade 1 stakes roster are the $300,000 Santa Monica on January 26, the Las Virgenes and Frank E. Kilroe Mile, which join the Big 'Cap on March 2, the Santa Margarita on March 16, and the Santa Anita Oaks, which shares top billing with the Santa Anita Derby on April 6.

"We're excited about our opener on December 26 and we intend to build upon the momentum we experienced with the two-day Breeders' Cup here on November 2-3," said Santa Anita Vice President of Racing, Rick Hammerle. "We decided to move the La Brea from December 31 back to opening day, which is where it was slotted for many years.

One of the biggest days on the 2013 winter calendar is Sunshine Millions Day, January 26, which will showcase a total of six stakes. The afternoon will feature four California-bred stakes and be highlighted by the Santa Monica and the Grade 3, $100,000 Santa Ysabel.

Due to the inception of the Golden State Series, both editions of the California Breeders' Champion Stakes on January 26 have been increased from $100,000 to $300,000. Both stakes are for three-year-olds -- one for colts and geldings and the other is restricted to fillies.

"Both of these races have traditionally been run on opening day, but with the staggering increase in purse money, they should be a great fit on Sunshine Millions Day," Hammerle said. "Additionally, we've increased the distance for both races, from seven furlongs to a mile."

Two other California-bred stakes will adorn the Janaury 26 card: The $100,000 Crystal Water, for older horses at 1 1/8 miles on turf, and the $100,000 Valentine Dancer, for older fillies and mares at one mile on turf.

Santa Anita's comprehensive schedule of traditional Santa Anita Derby preps will include races worth a total of 170 Kentucky Derby qualifying points and will begin with the Grade 3, $100,000 Sham (10 points) at one mile on January 5. It's followed by the Grade 2, $200,000 Robert B. Lewis Stakes (10 points) at 1 1/16 miles on February 2, and the Grade 2, $300,000 San Felipe Stakes (50 points) at 1 1/16 miles on March 9.

The winner of the Santa Anita Derby will earn 100 Kentucky Derby qualifying points.

"We feel the new Derby points system instituted by Churchill Downs reconfirms the significance of our traditional three-year-old program and provides our horsemen added incentive to compete here," Hammerle said.

The 74th running of the Grade 2, $150,000 San Juan Capistrano Handicap, Santa Anita's traditional closing day feature for older horses, will be run at about 1 3/4 miles down the Camino Real Turf Course on closing day, April 21.

In addition to its regular stakes schedule, Santa Anita will regularly card overnight stakes throughout the meet. Santa Anita's complete winter/spring stakes schedule is available at www.santaanita.com.

First post time on opening day is noon (PST).

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