10/27/2003 12:00AM

El Camino Real pushed back


ALBANY, Calif. - The 2003-04 Golden Gate Fields meeting, which runs from Nov. 5 through April 4, has scheduled four fewer stakes races than last year and pushed back by a week one of the meeting's premier stakes races.

The Grade 3, $200,000 El Camino Real Derby, which has produced a number of Triple Crown and major stakes winners, among them Tabasco Cat, Charismatic, and Ten Most Wanted, has been pushed back from the first weekend in March to March 13.

Stakes eliminated from the stakes schedule were the Moment to Buy Handicap, which was canceled last year; the Montclair Handicap; the Vallejo Handicap; and the Sacramento Handicap, all $60,000 overnight handicaps.

A pair of 2-year-old Cal-bred stakes that had been run in conjunction with Santa Anita's Cal Cup Day - which typically was held during the Bay Meadows meeting - have not been re-scheduled for the Golden Gate meeting. Because of the Breeders' Cup the Cal Cup will be held Nov. 8.

In addition, the Tanforan Handicap has lost its Grade 3 status, and its purse has been lowered by $25,000 to $75,000. The Forty-Niner Handicap also had its purse reduced $25,000, to $75,000.

The Golden State Mile got a purse increase from $60,000 to $75,000.

Five of the 26 stakes during the 109-day meeting are Grade 3's.

Stakes purses for the meet are $2,080,000, plus added money, a decrease of $275,000 from last year.

Richard Lewis, the director of racing operations, said the streamlined stakes schedule reflects the realities of racing. "One of the stakes [the Moment to Buy] had only five nominees last year and didn't fill. We rescheduled it, and it still didn't fill," he said.