10/20/2009 11:00PM

Oak Tree purses taking 10 percent cut


ARCADIA, Calif. - Purses at the Oak Tree at Santa Anita meeting have been cut by approximately 10 percent for the remainder of the meeting, which runs through Nov. 8, the track announced on Wednesday.

Track management cited declining handle as the reason for the cuts. In a statement, Santa Anita officials said all-sources handle was down 12 percent compared with the 2008 Oak Tree meeting.

The reductions take effect with Saturday's races, and do not affect purses for the Breeders' Cup races on Nov. 6-7.

Director of racing Mike Harlow said two minor stakes have had their purses trimmed. The Jack Goodman and Anoakia Stakes for 2-year-old sprinters on Oct. 31 and Nov. 1 have been reduced from $65,000-added to $58,000-added.

The purse for Saturday's $100,000 Harold Ramser Handicap was not altered. The Ramser is a Grade 3 race and therefore must have a purse of $100,000 to retain its graded status.

Harlow said the purse account is "probably a couple of hundred thousand behind where we thought we'd be."

Field sizes have been disappointing at this meeting, which began on Sept. 30. Through Sunday, the 16th day of racing, fields have averaged 8.07 starters per race, compared with 9 per race for the entire 2008 Oak Tree meeting.

Last weekend, Harlow feared a purse cut was possible, but was hopeful that business would improve sufficiently this week to avoid a reduction. When financial figures from the weekend were reviewed, he said the financial picture was worse than expected.

"Once the weekend numbers came in and I sat down with accounting, as much as we'd like to maintain those [purse] levels, there was too much of an overpayment to overcome," he said.

Harlow said the short six-week season of the Oak Tree meeting, compared with a 17-week season at the Santa Anita winter-spring meeting, forces track officials to act quickly when revenue from handle does not meet expectations.

"There is no time to continue to look at business," he said. "In a four- or five-month meeting, you can try to keep it up."

The two meetings are run by different organizations. Harlow said it was necessary to cut purses now for the current meeting, instead of carrying a deficit into the 2010 Oak Tree meeting.

"You don't want to go in overpaid for next year," he said.

From Saturday, there will be 12 days of racing remaining at the meeting. Oak Tree is responsible for purses on all of those days, except the two Breeders' Cup days, which are handled by Breeders' Cup, Harlow said. Harlow said the current deficit could be erased by the end of the meeting.

"We can make up $20,000 a day for what we have left of actual Oak Tree racing," he said.

The overnight purse cuts affect racing at all levels. For example, a maiden special weight race for 2-year-olds over 5 1/2 furlongs has been cut from $40,000 to $36,000. A sprint for $18,000 to $20,000 claimers has been reduced from $19,000 to $17,000. A first-level allowance race at 1 1/8 miles on turf has been cut fromm $44,000 to $40,000.

Monterey Jazz sidelined with injury

Monterey Jazz, the winner of the Grade 2 American Handicap at Hollywood Park in July, has been turned out with an injury and will not start in a Breeders' Cup race, trainer Craig Dollase said.

"We've got some issues with him," Dollase said. "He's out for a few months."

A four-time stakes winner, Monterey Jazz, 5, has won 8 of 22 starts and $677,880. He was seventh in the Grade 2 Oak Tree Mile at Santa Anita on Oct. 10 in his most recent start.

Champagne d'Oro's spot undecided

Champagne d'Oro, unraced since an eighth-place finish against males in the Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity on Sept. 7, will be pre-entered for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies and Juvenile Fillies Turf, trainer Eric Guillot said.

Guillot said he is leaning toward running Champagne d'Oro in the Juvenile Fillies, which is run over 1 1/16 miles on the main track. Guillot said starting Champagne d'Oro in the Juvenile Fillies is worth the gamble, even though she has never raced around two turns. He said the filly will be campaigned at Fair Grounds in New Orleans this winter.

"I'd hate to get her to Fair Grounds, break her maiden by 10 lengths going two turns, and think, 'Oh, no,' " he said.

In the Del Mar Futurity, Champagne d'Oro finished 6 3/4 lengths behind Lookin at Lucky after a poor start and racing in traffic on the turn of the seven-furlong race.

"She had a bad trip in the Futurity," Guillot said.

Champagne d'Oro finished first in a maiden race at Del Mar on Aug. 9, but was later disqualified after a postrace test revealed a positive for trenbolone, a steroid. Champagne d'Oro was disqualified from purse winnings.