11/28/2013 10:05AM

Santa Anita boosts purses for 20 graded stakes for winter-spring meet


Santa Anita for its upcoming meeting has revamped its list of stakes leading to the Santa Anita Handicap in March, increased purses for 20 graded stakes, and boosted the purse of the Santa Anita Derby to seven figures for the first time since 2011.

Santa Anita will run from Dec. 26 through June 29, but the track has released its stakes schedule for only the winter-spring meeting, covering racing through April 20. The stakes schedule for late April through June will be published in early 2014.

The meeting’s top races for 3-year-olds – the Santa Anita Oaks and Santa Anita Derby, both on April 5 – have significant purse increases. The Santa Anita Derby purse was raised from $750,000 to $1 million, while the Santa Anita Oaks will be worth $400,000, a gain of $100,000 over 2013.

The preps leading to the $750,000 Santa Anita Handicap, run over 1 1/4 miles on March 8, have changed. The track has eliminated the Grade 2 San Fernando Stakes for 4-year-olds, which was run in mid-January, and replaced it with the Grade 2 Strub Stakes for 4-year-olds, previously run in early February.

The $200,000 Strub Stakes will be run over 1 1/16 miles on Jan. 18. The race was run over 1 1/4 miles from 1948 to 1997 and then over 1 1/8 miles until last year.

Another prep race for the Big Cap is the $300,000 San Antonio Stakes over 1 1/8 miles for 4-year-olds and up on Feb. 8. In past years, the Strub and San Antonio were run on the same weekend, but struggled to attract large fields.

“We don’t have that many horses to split the divisions up,” racing secretary Rick Hammerle said.

The purse of the San Antonio has been raised $100,000 this year.

Of the 20 graded stakes that have increased purses over last season, 16 are Grade 2 races raised from $150,000 to $200,000 to comply with minimum purses for such races set forth by the American Graded Stakes Committee.

The richest sprint of the meeting is the $250,000 San Carlos Stakes, a Grade 2 over seven furlongs on March 8, worth $50,000 more than last year.

The purses of two races were cut by $50,000. The Grade 3 Robert J. Frankel Stakes for fillies and mares on turf will be worth $100,000, while the Grade 2 Santa Monica Stakes for female sprinters will be worth $200,000.

The Grade 2 San Juan Capistrano Handicap over about 1 3/4 miles on turf will be run in June this year, Hammerle said. The race had been run in mid-April in past years.

The California Cup, run in the autumn through 2012, has been merged with the Sunshine Millions on Jan. 25. In 2014, there are five races for California-breds on that program, worth a total of $950,000.

In addition to the published stakes schedule, as many as 18 overnight stakes, worth $70,000 to $75,000, will be offered through the season.