02/10/2012 2:24PM

Golden State Series could exceed 1,000 nominations for inaugural season

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ARCADIA, Calif. – The newly created Golden State Series for California-breds, a calendar of lucrative stakes this year, could attract more than 1,000 nominations by Wednesday’s deadline, according to California Thoroughbred Breeders Association executive director Doug Burge.

The series, first announced last fall, includes stakes for horses of all ages, but 2-year-olds of 2012 must be nominated to the program for $300 by Wednesday. Horses aged 3 or older in 2012 have been grandfathered into the series without a preliminary nomination fee.

The 2010 foal crop in California was approximately 1,891, and Burge expects more than half of those now 2-year-olds to be nominated to the Golden State Series.

“Early on, it’s been very positive,” he said of the response. “Even some of the larger farms are in to the 70 to 75 percent range in regards to nominating 2-year-olds. That’s way above what we budgeted. We thought it would be good if we could get 55 percent of the foal crop. We are hoping for a little more than 1,000.”

The 27-race program, worth $4.65 million, emphasizes races for 2- and 3-year-olds. Opportunities for those age groups were increased from 12 races worth $1.275 million in 2011 to 18 races worth $3.6 million this year. Some races in the series have been run in the past, while others are new. The first new races are two $200,000 sprints for 3-year-olds over 6 1/2 furlongs at Santa Anita on March 31 – the Echo Eddie Stakes and the Evening Jewel Stakes for fillies.

Two upcoming races for 3-year-olds have had purses greatly enhanced. At Hollywood Park on April 28, the Snow Chief Stakes for 3-year-olds over 1 1/8 miles will be worth $300,000, an increase of $150,000 from 2011. The Melair Stakes for 3-year-old fillies over 1 1/16 miles on the same day has been raised from $125,000 to $300,000.

In October at Santa Anita, the California Cup Juvenile and Juvenile Fillies will be worth a record $250,000 as part of the program.

Burge said purses for races of $200,000 or more will be pay prize money to eighth place.

“When we talked to a lot of major owners and breeders, that was an idea that was considered,” he said. “You want to encourage participation and field size. We hate to see five- or six-horse fields.”

Organizers hope that the development of the Golden State Series, and a three-year program that pays bonuses to California-breds that win maiden special weight races, will boost the state’s foal crop.

The 2011 foal crop declined 6.8 percent to 1,762. As recently as 2005, there were 3,707 live foals registered in the state. Burge said the financial programs and inclusion of new stallions in the state could lead to a more stable foal crop, and possibly growth in coming years. Giacomo, the 2005 Kentucky Derby winner, and Heatseeker, a Grade 1 winner, are standing in the state for the first time this year.

“This will give us more of a boost,” Burge said. “If we can stabilize this year, then we’ll still have 1,800 to 2,000 foals. I’m encouraged by what I’ve heard.”