11/25/2009 12:00AM

Big Cap purse trimmed to $750,000

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The purse for the prestigious Santa Anita Handicap has been cut from $1 million to $750,000 for the 2010 running on March 6. Santa Anita has announced the stakes schedule for the upcoming winter-spring meeting, which runs from Dec. 26 to April 18. Overall, the calendar has been cut from 75 stakes to 54 events.

The Big Cap will be one of two $750,000 races at the meeting, along with the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby on April 3. The Big Cap was racing's first $100,000 race when launched in 1935. In more modern times, the race was worth $500,000 from 1982-85 before going to $1 million in 1986.

The Big Cap is among 19 stakes with reduced purses for the 2009-10 meeting. The cuts ranged in value from $25,000 for four statebred races to $50,000 for 14 graded stakes.

A dozen of the eliminated races were worth $70,000-added, and could be restored as overnight stakes, if additional purse money is available, according to director of racing Mike Harlow. Six Grade 3 races - the Baldwin and La Habra stakes, and Daytona, El Conejo, Thunder Road, Tuzla handicaps - were cut from the schedule, as were two $100,000 races, the Honest Lady Stakes and Valentine Dancer Handicap. The Sunshine Millions races for California-breds and Florida-breds on Jan. 30, will comprise six races - three at Santa Anita and three at Gulfstream - instead of eight. Purses for these races were cut across the board, led by a reduction of the Classic purse from $1 million to $500,000.

Harlow said the changes were a reflection of the poor economic conditions facing Thoroughbred racing in Southern California.

"We needed to make some reductions," Harlow said. "Some were newly graded and were previously overnight races. We'll probably replace them with overnights. Hopefully, business will turn around."

The opening day features four stakes, including two $300,000 Grade 1 races over seven furlongs for 3-year-olds - the Malibu Stakes for both sexes and the La Brea Stakes for fillies. Those races had their purses increased by $50,000 to satisfy minimum purse requirements set forth by the American Graded Stakes Committee for Grade 1 races in 2009.

The committee has established $250,000 as the minimum for a Grade 1 in 2010, Harlow said, allowing Santa Anita to cut the purses of six Grade 1 races from $300,000 to $250,000.

There were no major changes to the conditions of the Santa Anita Derby preps, although three races - the Grade 2 Robert Lewis, Grade 3 Sham Stakes, and Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes - had their purses cut from $200,000 to $150,000. The smaller purses could affect participation in those races because a berth in the Kentucky Derby can depend on earnings in graded stakes.