11/21/2013 9:21PM

Santa Anita Derby purse boosted to $1 million, track to run split season

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. – Santa Anita’s upcoming sixth-month season will be divided into two meetings and the track will raise the purse of the Santa Anita Derby to $1 million, officials said during a California Horse Racing Board meeting on Thursday at Betfair Hollywood Park. Santa Anita also will offer fewer daily doubles but with a lower takeout, and Friday evening racing from late April to late June.

Thursday, the board approved Santa Anita’s license application from Dec. 26 through April 20, the track’s traditional dates for its winter-spring meeting. Santa Anita will race from April 25 through June 29, but the application for those days will not be addressed until February. The license for the December through April dates was contingent upon the completion of agreements with California’s horsemen’s groups, the Thoroughbred Owners of California and the California Thoroughbred Trainers.

At Thursday’s racing board meeting, track officials said the purse of the Santa Anita Derby on April 5 will be raised from $750,000 to $1 million. The Santa Anita Derby was worth $1 million in 1996 and 2000.

Track officials told the racing board that the Santa Anita Oaks will be worth a record $400,000, but the date of the race has not been announced. The track has yet to release its full stakes schedule, but is expected to do so in coming days, having reached the required agreement with the TOC.

A stakes schedule for the late April through June meeting will be announced later, pending conversations with Del Mar and Los Alamitos to develop a revamped Southern California stakes schedule following the scheduled closure of Betfair Hollywood Park in December.

Santa Anita will no longer offer rolling daily doubles each day, but will have three daily doubles – on the first two races, the fourth and fifth races, and the final two races. Beginning on opening day, Dec. 26, the daily doubles will have a takeout of 18 percent, down from the current 22.68 percent.

In addition, Santa Anita, which co-owns the HRTV racing network, has reached an agreement with TVG for all California Thoroughbred signals to be shown on both television networks through the year, according to Santa Anita vice-president Scott Daruty. The agreement reflects a change from past years when some signals, notably Del Mar’s, were not available on HRTV.

Santa Anita will run mostly four days a week during the meet, Thursdays through Sundays. There will be racing on Wednesday, Jan. 1, and no racing on the the Thursday and Friday of Easter week, April 17-18. There will be racing that Saturday and Sunday, April 19-20. From late April to late June, Friday racing will begin at 3 p.m., according to marketing director Nate Newby.

◗ Hollywood Park officials told the racing board that part of the casino adjacent to the racetrack is being remodeled to include an 18,000-square-foot simulcast facility. Hollywood Park’s current autumn meeting ends on Dec. 22, the last day of live racing in track history. The grandstand will be closed permanently after the meeting, and is scheduled to be developed for residential and commercial uses.

◗ After a lengthy discussion, the racing board approved one-year license applications for the account-wagering providers Bet America, TVG, Twinspires, Watch and Wager, and XpressBet. TVG, Twinspires and XpressBet offer account-wagering services on California Thoroughbred racing to California residents. Bet America and Watch and Wager are seeking inroads into the market.

Joe Morris of the TOC said that his organization will decide whether to support a wider market for account-wagering providers in California by the end of the year.

Approval of the account-wagering licenses was nearly postponed until the racing board’s December meeting because of an ongoing dispute between Twinspires and Xpressbet. Brad Blackwell of Twinspires said the issued is centered on the behind-the-scenes distribution of revenue from handle generated at Florida tracks, a point that Daruty, representing Xpressbet, disputed.

The issue was not resolved at Thursday’s meeting.