01/29/2008 12:00AM

El Camino Real Derby purse drops to $150,000

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For the first time since its second running in 1983, Bay Meadows's signature race, the Grade 3 El Camino Real Derby, will be run for a purse of less than $200,000. The 1 1/16-mile race, which has produced winners of all three Triple Crown races, will be run March 8 for a $150,000 purse. It is the second year in a row the El Camino Real has had its purse cut by $50,000.

The El Camino Real tops a list of 15 stakes races worth $1,105,000 for the meet, which begins Monday and runs through May 11. This could be the final meet for Bay Meadows, which is scheduled to be closed and developed perhaps as soon as next year.

The Thoroughbred Owners of California, which must approve the purse structure at California racetracks, asked Bay Meadows to cut the El Camino Real purse and distribute the $50,000 to overnight purses.

"We want to try to get maiden purses up," TOC director Tom Bachman said. "We want to try to encourage people to buy more horses and race them here."

Bachman said he didn't think a difference of $50,000 in the purse would affect the size of the field, and noted, "We are also giving 60 percent to the winner now instead of 55 percent as in the past."

Racing secretary Tom Doutrich said he was "disappointed" by the decision of the TOC to cut the purse.

"I explained that this is Bay Meadows's signature race," Doutrich said.

The purse for the Bay Meadows Sprint, to be run March 15, has been raised $25,000 to $100,000, which allows it to retain its Grade 3 status.