11/27/2007 12:00AM

Derby preps get tweak

EmailFurther refinement of preps leading to the Santa Anita Derby, a better progression of stakes for female sprinters, and overnight stakes slotted for Monday cards highlight the stakes schedule for the upcoming Santa Anita winter meeting, which begins Dec. 26.

The most significant adjustment was made for the 3-year-olds. The 1 1/8-mile Sham Stakes, which had been run in February, swapped spots with the 1 1/16-mile Robert B. Lewis Stakes, which had been run in March. Those races, along with the 1 1/16-mile San Felipe Stakes, move horses along toward the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby at 1 1/8 miles in April.

"We wanted to keep the distances consistent," said Rick Hammerle, Santa Anita's racing secretary. "In the past, if a horse ran in the Sham, he had to drop back to a mile and a sixteenth for his next race, or stay on the shelf for two months to stay at a mile and an eighth in the Santa Anita Derby."

The purses of the Lewis, Sham, and San Felipe are now $200,000 each, which comes to $50,000 more than the $550,000 offered for those three races combined last year.

Female sprinters have more and better options this year, too. The newly minted Honest Lady will be run Feb. 24, a time when the Las Flores used to be run. The Grade 3 Las Flores will now move to April 6, which Hammerle said will "hopefully serve as a prep for the Humana Distaff," a Grade 1 race run at Churchill Downs the first weekend in May.

Santa Anita is scheduled to race Thursdays through Mondays this year, instead of the traditional Wednesday through Sunday. Because of that, Hammerle slotted several overnight stakes on non-holiday Mondays, including the Paseana on Jan. 7 and the La Zanzara on Feb. 4.