12/18/2008 1:00AM

San Francisco Mile in comeback


The return of the Grade 2 San Francisco Mile highlights the winter-spring stakes schedule at Golden Gate Fields in Albany, Calif. The meet begins next Friday and runs through June 14, 2009.

The San Francisco Mile was not run last year because the now-closed Bay Meadows had the bulk of the spring dates in Northern California, and there was no opportunity to run it at Golden Gate. The race will return on April 25 with a $300,000 purse, the richest of the 18 stakes at the meeting.

"Historically, it's been the most important race in Northern California, and we want to keep it there," said the track's racing secretary, Sean Greely. "It needs to be the focal point of our meet."

The meet will offer a total of $1,850,000 in stakes purses. Other highlights include the Grade 3, $200,000 El Camino Real Derby on Feb. 14; the Grade 3, $150,000 Berkeley on May 25; and the Grade 3, $100,000 Golden Gate Fields Turf on May 30.

All stakes will offer a minimum $75,000 purse. In the past, stakes purses at Golden Gate began at $50,000.

"Money talks, and $75,000 is a stakes race," Greely said. "Stakes races are for the best horses. Our $50,000 stakes became relatively insignificant, because allowance races down south had higher purses."

Greely has front-loaded the meet with stakes races for 3-year-olds, including the six-furlong Golden Bear on Jan. 1 and six-furlong Tiburon for fillies on Jan. 10. The races are preps for the California Derby, California Oaks, and El Camino Real Derby.