Updated on 09/16/2011 8:30AM

Cal-breds to battle Fla-breds


ARCADIA, Calif. - Santa Anita will host a $750,000 race for fillies and mares on Jan. 25 as part of the newly created Sunshine Millions for California-breds and Florida-breds, the California Thoroughbred Breeders Association announced on Friday.

Santa Anita and Gulfstream Park will each host four races in the $3.6 million series, with Gulfstream Park hosting the richest race, a $1 million race for older horses, to be run at 1 1/8 miles.

Aside from the $750,000 race for females at 1 1/16 miles, Santa Anita will host the top turf race of the series, a $500,000 race for older horses at 1 1/8 miles on turf. Santa Anita will also host a $250,000 race for older horses at six furlongs and a $250,000 race for 3-year-old fillies at seven furlongs.

The races will be divided equally between Florida-breds and California-breds with a maximum of 12 starters.

While the program is designed to entice trainers to fly horses across the country to compete, there are many Florida-breds racing in California that wouldn't have to ship for a start on Sunshine Millions Day.

For example, Ain't it Sweep, a Florida-bred who is entered in Sunday's Anoakia Stakes at Santa Anita, will be eligible for the $250,000 race for 3-year-old fillies.

Funding for the program came from the statebred organizations, the horsemen's organizations in both states, and Magna Entertainment, the parent company of both tracks. Early nominations for the Sunshine Millions close on Dec. 9.

Insurance program debate

An insurance program that would reduce the workers' compensation rates paid by California trainers may not go into effect by Nov. 1 despite nearly constant efforts by racing officials to attract support from horsemen.

According to Ed Halpern, the executive director of the California Thoroughbred Trainers, the policy may start on Nov. 1 if enough horsemen buy policies through a program sponsored by the American International Group.

The policy was originally presented in September, but could be postponed because of clauses in existing policies of the government-backed State Fund. Halpern said some trainers may face early cancellation penalties that reach five figures.

"State Fund can kill this thing," Halpern said. "A lot of people, even with the penalty, it's cheaper to make the change."

Since March, when the last private company left the marketplace, State Fund has been the only provider of workmen's compensation insurance, which is compulsory for trainers.

Halpern said there has been considerable support from horsemen in northern California, where purse levels are lower.

"I don't know if that is a product of the aggressive brokers or that people are in more trouble up there," he said. "It's important for us to get people to change because the insurance company doesn't want to get involved if there isn't enough premium."

Oak Tree figures drop

Through Wednesday, attendance and handle figures at the current Oak Tree meeting were considerably lower than the corresponding figures from 2001. Ontrack attendance is down 9.4 percent, on-track handle has fallen 8.1 percent, and overall handle is down seven percent, according to Sherwood Chillingworth, the executive vice president of the Oak Tree Racing Association. Wednesday's program marked the 12th day of the 26-day meeting.

Chillingworth emphasized that the total handle figure doesn't include approximately $300,000 bet daily through telephone and Internet accounts, a program which wasn't legalized until earlier this year.

"I wanted to do an apples-to-apples comparison," Chillingworth said.

Chillingworth argued that the success of the Anaheim Angels, currently playing in the World Series, has drawn business away from the racetrack. He said he expects the meet to end strongly, especially on California Cup Day on Nov. 2. The meeting ends on Nov. 3.

Chillingworth said that table sales for Cal Cup Day are far ahead of schedule compared to last year. "Barring bad weather, we expect to have a big day," he said.

Flores atop jockey standings

Paxtecum helped propel jockey David Flores to the top of the jockey standings with a dramatic win in Thursday's seventh race. Flores won three races on Thursday, ending the day with 14 wins for the meet, two more than Laffit Pincay Jr.

Trained by Mike Machowsky, Paxtecum ($7) rallied from off the pace to catch Thunder Bullet in the allowance race at about 6 1/2 furlongs on turf, winning by a head in 1:13.46.

After the win, Paxtecum became spooked when he returned to be unsaddled, and unseated Flores, who landed hard on his backside. After remounting for the winner's circle picture, Flores celebrated with a flying dismount. "Now, I can jump," he said as he dismounted.

Owned by John Waken, Paxtecum may return in the $70,000 Bien Bien Stakes at Hollywood Park on Nov. 6, Machowsky said.

* Sligo Bay won an optional claimer over 1 1/4 miles on turf in Friday's third race. It was his first victory since the Cinema Handicap at Hollywood Park in June 2001. Trainer Beau Greely mentioned the $250,000 Hollywood Turf Cup on Nov. 23 as a possible goal.