Santa Anita Park, which is returning to a natural dirt track this season, has added $450,000 to its 3-year-old program. The track opens for its 74th winter/spring season Dec. 26, and will offer a stakes program featuring 46 graded stakes, headed by the $1 million Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) April 9.
The Derby is one of of nine grade I events that are scheduled to be run during the California track's 76-day meeting, which will conclude April 17.
Santa Anita will offer two grade I races at seven furlongs on opening day: the $250,000 Malibu Stakes for 3-year-olds and the $250,000 La Brea Stakes for 3-year-old fillies. The $150,000 Sir Beaufort Stakes (gr. IIT) for 3-year-olds at one mile on turf and the $100,000 California Breeders Champion Stakes for 2-year-olds at seven furlongs will also be a part of a huge opening day program.
“We’ve added $450,000 to our 3-year-old program, which makes Santa Anita the nation’s most attractive avenue to the Triple Crown,” said Santa Anita racing secretary Rick Hammerle in a release. “Along with the news of increased purses, and due in large part to the fact we are returning to a natural dirt main track, we’re getting very positive response from horsemen and fans from all over the country.”
Hammerle also noted that MI Developments’ recently announced Preakness 5.5 (million) incentive program should prove to be of direct benefit to those racing at Santa Anita.
“The Preakness 5.5 is going to be a big plus for us,” said Hammerle. “It’s going to incentivize people to run in the Santa Anita Derby and in our Derby preps.”
Hammerle and Santa Anita director of racing Mike Harlow believe the Preakness 5.5 provides ample incentive for horsemen to run in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes (gr. II) Feb. 12 and/or in the San Felipe (gr. II) March 12, en route to the Santa Anita Derby.
“If you run in and win either the Lewis or the San Felipe and go on to win the Santa Anita Derby, you’ve got a shot at a huge payday,” said Harlow in a statement. “By running in and winning either of those two preps and then winning the Santa Anita Derby, you’re eligible to win the $5.5 million bonus, if you win the Preakness (gr. I).
“When you factor in that we anticipate a 25% increase in overnight purses, which gets us to a total distribution of about $425,000 a day, people are seeing, hearing, and recognizing that Santa Anita is going to be a great place to run this winter and spring."
Other important dates on Santa Anita’s stakes calendar include the Sunshine Millions Jan. 29, which features bicoastal competition between Florida-breds and California-breds. Santa Anita and its sister property, Gulfstream Park, will each host three Sunshine Millions races.
Santa Anita will run two $300,000 stakes on Sunshine Millions Day, the Sunshine Millions Turf, presented by San Manuel Indian Bingo and Casino, and the Sunshine Millions Distaff. The Sunshine Millions Sprint will offer a purse of $200,000.
The $250,000 Santa Monica Handicap (gr. I) for older fillies and mares at seven furlongs, will be run Jan. 30.
The following Saturday, Feb. 5, 3-year-old fillies will have an opportunity to run in the Las Virgenes Stakes (gr. I).
Santa Anita will present the 74th running of the $750,000 Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I) March 5. The $300,000 Frank E. Kilroe Mile (gr. IT), and the $250,000 Santa Anita Oaks (gr. I) will also be run on Big ’Cap Day.
The $300,000 Santa Margarita Stakes (gr. I), which is where Zenyatta made her 2010 debut, will be run at 1 1/8 miles March 12.
On April 9, the Santa Anita Derby will highlight a program that includes three other graded events, the Arcadia (gr. II), the Providencia (gr. II), and the Las Cienegas Handicap (gr. III).
The meet will conclude with Santa Anita’s traditional closing day feature, the $150,000 San Juan Capistrano Handicap (gr. IIT) for older horses at 1 3/4 miles, beginning atop its hillside turf course.