02/18/2011 2:32PM

Santa Anita to give California Cup Day a 'long, hard look'

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ARCADIA, Calif. – The annual California Cup program, which has undergone significant changes in purse values and races offered in recent years, may face further revisions this year and could be scaled back.

At Thursday’s California Horse Racing Board meeting, Santa Anita executive Scott Daruty told the racing board the event “has not been successful from a financial standpoint. We’d be interested in discussing ways to hold the event. If we can work with the industry, work with the breeders and the [Thoroughbred Owners of California] to make a Cal Cup Day that makes economic sense, we’d be in favor of that as well.”

Santa Anita was granted six weeks of racing from Sept. 28 to Nov. 6 later this year, dates that had historically been run by the Oak Tree Racing Association at Santa Anita from 1969 to 2009 and last year at Hollywood Park.

Oak Tree sought to run a meeting at Hollywood Park this fall, but the racing board voted 6-0 to award the dates to Santa Anita. Oak Tree hosted the California Cup during its meeting from its inception in 1990 through last year.

After Thursday’s meeting, Daruty said that no changes to the California Cup have been discussed among Santa Anita officials, who were initially focused on acquiring the racing dates this fall.

“We will need to give it a long, hard look,” he said.

The California Cup has featured fewer stakes in the last two years. In 2009, when the event was held at Santa Anita, the program featured eight stakes and two starter handicaps for claimers. Last year at Hollywood Park, the starter handicaps and the Distance Handicap over 1 1/4 miles on turf for fillies and mares were dropped. The program featured seven stakes and three maiden races.

In addition, the purses of some races have been reduced from past highs. The Classic, run over 1 1/8 miles on the main track, was worth $250,000 from 1996 to 2008, $200,000 in 2009, and $150,000 last year.

Prominent breeder John Harris, a member of the board of directors of the California Thoroughbred Breeders Association and a racing board member, insists the event will continue at Santa Anita. He said California Cup Day, which frequently drew ontrack crowds of more than 20,000 at Santa Anita, can be an effective way to draw casual fans to the races.

“Rumors of its demise are wrong,” he said Friday. “It’s a day to get people to the races. It can be continued. We need to get everyone on the same page.”

Harris acknowledged that the structure of the program could be changed.

“There is nothing sacred about exactly how we do things,” he said.

Evening Jewel named top Cal-bred

Evening Jewel was named California-bred horse of the year at the CTBA’s annual awards dinner in San Diego last Monday. The title was decided by a vote of CTBA members.

The now 4-year-old filly was bred by Betty Mabee and her son, Larry, and won two Grade 1 races in 2010 – the Ashland Stakes at Keeneland and the Del Mar Oaks on turf. For the season, Evening Jewel won 4 of 9 starts and $915,343 for the Braly Family Trust.

Trained by Jim Cassidy, Evening Jewel also won two Grade 2 handicaps on turf – the Honeymoon at Hollywood Park and San Clemente at Del Mar.

Evening Jewel outvoted the Cassidy-trained The Usual Q.T. and Unzip Me, co-owned by Harris, in balloting for the highest honor among statebreds.

By Northern Afleet, Evening Jewel is scheduled to start in Monday’s $150,000 Buena Vista Handicap over a mile on turf at Santa Anita. She won the Sunshine Millions Distaff at Santa Anita on Jan. 29 in her most recent start.