02/06/2006 12:00AM

Eight stakes, each six figures


ALBANY, Calif. - Golden Gate Fields opens its 65-day spring meet Wednesday with a different look to its stakes schedule. The meeting ends May 7.

For the first time, every stakes is worth at least $100,000, highlighted by the Grade 2, $400,000 San Francisco Breeders' Cup Mile on April 29. Each of the meet's three Grade 3 races - the All American on Feb. 20, the Golden Gate Fields Handicap on March 25, and Yerba Buena on May 7 - will have a purse of $150,000.

"We have to maintain the grades on races," said racing secretary Sean Greely, explaining why all eight stakes have six-figure purses. "We want to try to compete on a national basis and get people back in the grandstand."

The stakes schedule starts off strong when multiple stakes winner Sierra Sweetie meets Bai and Bai in Saturday's $100,000 California Breeders' Cup Oaks.

The $100,000 Golden Gate Fields Sprint on April 22 should mark the return of Eclipse sprint champion Lost in the Fog.

Although the stakes program amounts to only 10 percent of total purses, some trainers are concerned about the outlay for the stakes at the expense of the overnight handicaps. The value of the overnight stakes drop from $50,000 at the last Golden Gate meeting to $40,000 (plus Cal-bred premiums) this meet. Overnight handicaps will be offered throughout the meet to serve as local preps for the stakes. The first of the scheduled races, the six-furlong San Rafael for fillies and mares on opening day, failed to fill.

The opening-day feature, a $40,000 claimer for fillies and mares at six furlongs, attracted a field of six, including , who has four wins and a second in six Golden Gate starts.

Most admission prices have been raised. General admission has been raised $1, to $4; clubhouse admission has gone up $2, to $6; admission to the top of the stretch has increased $2, to $8. Admission to the turf club is $15. Previously it was $10 on weekdays and $15 on weekends and holidays. Valet parking has also been increased $1, to $8.

Track regulars can register for a Thoroughbreds Club card, which lowers the price of admission. Thoroughbreds Club card holders get general admission for $3 and clubhouse admission for $4, with the price decreasing after a specified number of visits. For club members making more than 20 trips to the track, admission will be just $1 for general admission and $2 for the clubhouse.

The meeting will also include three Friday cards in April with a first post of 2:45 p.m. to coincide with a similar program at Santa Anita.

At a glance: Golden Gate Fields

RACING SCHEDULE: 65 days - Feb. 8-May 7. Dark Mondays and Tuesdays, except Feb. 20; dark Wednesday, Feb. 22

POST TIME: 12:50 p.m.; 2:45 p.m. April 7, 14, 21


$100,000 California BC OaksFeb. 11
150,000 All American Handicap Feb. 20
100,000 California Derby March 11
150,000 Golden Gate Fields Handicap March 25
100,000 Work the Crowd Handicap April 1
100,000 Golden Gate Fields Sprint April 22
400,000 San Francisco Breeders' Cup MileApril 29
150,000 Yerba Buena BC HandicapMay 7

ADMISSIONS: $4 grandstand, $6 clubhouse, $8 top of the stretch, $15 turf club; clubhouse box seats $3

PARKING: $4 general; $8 preferred, valet

LOCATION: 1100 Eastshore Highway, Albany, CA

SIMULCASTING: Daily except Tuesday.

PHONE: (510) 559-7300

INTERNET: www.goldengatefields.com