11/02/2010 1:16PM

Hollywood Park beefs up stakes schedule for fall meet

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. – Don’t go too far.

The conclusion of the five-week Oak Tree at Hollywood Park meeting on Sunday represented only the first half of the racing calendar at Hollywood Park this fall. The track opens its traditional autumn meeting on Thursday evening, with an eight-race program.

The autumn meeting runs through Dec. 19, with four-day racing schedules for four weeks in November and an ambitious five-day schedule for three weeks in December. There are five Grade 1 races, including the resumption of the $250,000 Hollywood Turf Cup over 1 1/2 miles on Nov. 13, a race not run in 2009 because of financial constraints.

The other Grade 1 races are the Matriarch Stakes for fillies and mares on turf on Nov. 26, and the Hollywood Derby on turf on Nov. 28, the leading stakes of the five-race Autumn Turf Festival. In December, the Grade 1 races for 2-year-olds – the Hollywood Starlet on Dec. 11 and the CashCall Futurity on Dec. 18 – are the highlights.

With an additional week of racing this fall, and the simulcasts of the Breeders’ Cup races from Churchill Downs this weekend, Hollywood Park has compiled a more expansive stakes schedule. Two other stakes left off the 2009 calendar – the $100,000 Sharp Cat and $100,000 Real Quiet Stakes for 2-year-olds – are back on the list and will be run this weekend.

What is unclear is how the track will fare in attracting runners on an everyday basis. At the start of the Santa Anita winter-spring meeting on Dec. 26, overnight purses on the circuit will rise approximately 20 to 30 percent because of recent legislation increasing the takeout on exotic wagers. As a result, some horsemen could hold back some of their horses in an effort to chase better prize money in early 2011.

Hollywood Park will not be able to offer a higher purse structure until its spring-summer meeting begins in late April.

“It’s a transitional period for California racing with the takeout increase and all the [additional] money going to purses,” said Hollywood Park racing secretary Martin Panza. “This will be the last meeting on this purse structure. Hopefully some of the smaller stables that don’t win as often will help us get through this.”

Entries for the first two days of the meeting were disappointing with 57 horses entered for Thursday evening’s eight-race program and just 52 entered for Friday afternoon’s eight-race card.

At first glance, it could be difficult to find sufficient runners for the three five-day weeks in December, but Panza is banking on a gap between the end of the Hollywood Park and Santa Anita meetings to make running at Hollywood park more appealing.

“There is a week between us and Santa Anita and that should help,” said.

Thursday’s program begins at 7:05 p.m. Pacific and is highlighted by a $40,000 allowance race for statebred fillies and mares over 6 1/2 furlongs.

Rebecca, the winner of a maiden race by 4 1/4 lengths at Santa Anita last April in her most recent start, has drawn the rail in a field of five that includes the two-time winners Shesoprovocative and Word Association.