Magna Outlines Bi-Coastal Series Details

The complicated details of a bicoastal series designed to generate more fans and boost field size at two Magna-owned tracks were announced Friday at a press conference.

Now, track officials need to schedule a series of classes so people understand it.

The Super Track Racing Series will be held consecutive weekends, beginning March 3 at Santa Anita and culminating March 10 at Gulfstream Park. The competition will pit a team of horses from the East Coast called the Miami Cruisers against the West Coast representation, the Los Angeles Blaze. The two teams will compete in six stakes races -- all run on the dirt -- that will have guaranteed purses of $100,000 each. The fields for all the races have been limited to 12 entries.

The racing series has been added on two of the tracks richest days. Santa Anita already had three stakes races on next Saturday's card worth more than $1.4 million, including the featured Santa Anita Handicap. Gulfstream offers the grade I Florida Derby on March 10th.

"We believe strongly in the need to try new things in an effort to rejuvenate the racing business," said Andy Stronach, vice president of Magna Entertainment, which owns both tracks.

Points will be awarded to the top four finishers in each of the
races. Although the series tries to mirror the excitement of other team sports, there is no grand prize for the winning squad. However, there will be a $10,000 prize for the Most Valuable Trainer and Most Valuable Jockey determined at the end of each day.

Horsemen appear to have embraced the series meant to promote larger purses. There have been 70 California horses that have been pre-entered as of late Friday, said Santa Anita spokesman Stuart Zanville. Only 30 horses have been nominated from Gulfstream.

"I think trainers will point to these races," said Ed Halpern, executive director of the California Thoroughbred Trainers Association. "When you are talking about that kind of money, it's pretty tempting."

To entice trainers who may be reluctant to ship to the visiting track 3,000 miles away, Magna has offered $5,000 to those who participate. The money will be split between the owner and trainer. The company will also pay for the grooms' flight and their lodging expenses.

The series will also appeal to hard-core bettors. They will have a chance to wager on the margin of victory by the winning team.

However, there are some exceptions to the special wagering pool. Each team must be represented by a minimum of four entries. If the fields for any of the races were lopsided -- say like two Cruisers against 10 Blazers -- the race wouldn't count toward the team wager.

The unbalanced fields may pose a problem for confused bettors but track officials believe the Super Track races will be successful.

"One of the objectives is to have full fields and we think this event will accomplish that," Zanville said. "So long as there are four runners from each squad we continue with the team concept."

Entries for the March 3 event will be taken until Tuesday when post
positions are drawn. Zanville said Santa Anita hasn't determined yetwhich of the 11 races on next Saturday's card the series will be.