Oak Tree at Santa Anita Kicks Off Sept. 28

The Oak Tree Racing Association begins its 37th season at Santa Anita Park Sept. 28, highlighted by 29 stakes races worth $4,725,000.

A total of 13 graded stakes – three at grade I, seven at grade II, and three at grade III – will be decided during the 31-day meeting which concludes on Nov. 6. Nine stakes worth more than $2.4 million are on the agenda the first two weekends, designed for horsemen with the Breeders' Cup as their ultimate goal.

Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella plans to run Rock Hard Ten in the $500,000 Goodwood Breeders' Handicap (gr. II) on Oct. 1 in preparation for the $4 million Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I). Rock Hard Ten earned Horse of the Meet laurels in Santa Anita's annual media poll earlier this year when he captured three stakes races – the Malibu (gr. I), the Strub (gr. II), and the Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I). The imposing-looking son of Kris S. has not raced since winning the Big 'Cap March 5.

Opening weekend promises plenty of Breeders' Cup preview action. The $500,000 Yellow Ribbon Stakes (gr. IT) for fillies and mares at 1 1/4 miles on turf, the $500,000 Goodwood Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. II) for 3-year-olds and up at 1 1/8 miles, and the $200,000 Oak Leaf Stakes (gr. II) for 2-year-old fillies at 1 1/16 miles are all on Oct. 1. The $250,000 Clement L. Hirsch Turf Championship (gr. IT), the $250,000 Lady's Secret Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. II), and the $200,000 Norfolk Stakes (gr. II) are on Oct. 2.

The Oak Tree Racing Association is a not-for-profit entity comprised of active California owners and breeders whose directors serve without compensation as members of the corporation. In keeping with its long-standing charitable and civic tradition, Oak Tree will team with internationally acclaimed equine artist Fred Stone and a number of the nation's top jockeys on the meet's first Saturday to raise money for victims of Hurricane Katrina.

In conjunction with the American Red Cross, an array of Mr. Stone's artwork will be available at Santa Anita at 50% of retail cost. Hall of Fame jockeys Eddie Delahoussaye, Kent Desormeaux, Laffit Pincay Jr., Chris McCarron, Gary Stevens, and other top riders will be available along with Mr. Stone to autograph the artwork and further enhance its value.

California Cup XVI is set for closing day Nov. 6.