01/14/2002 12:00AM

Santa Anita take may rise


Santa Anita Park is considering a plan to raise the takeout for exotic wagers next year in order to pay for a new racing series, California racing officials said Monday.

Under the plan, the takeout rate for exotic wagers would likely rise 1 percentage point, officials said, so that Santa Anita could raise $1.25 million for the "Sunshine Millions," a $5 million, eight-race event restricted to horses bred in California and Florida that Santa Anita's parent company, Magna Entertainment, hopes to run for the first time in 2003.

The increase in the takeout would need to be preceded by a change in racing law in California, where takeouts are set by statute at 15.63 percent for win, place, and show bets and 20.38 percent for all other wagers, two of the lowest rates in the country.

Top executives with the California Thoroughbred Breeders Association and the Thoroughbred Owners of California said they believe a bill to allow the takeout rate to be set by the racetrack and horsemen would be introduced later this year. The executives, Doug Burge of the CTBA and John Van de Kamp of the TOC, said Santa Anita officials had discussed the plan with them recently.

Jack Liebau, the head of California racing for Magna, said California racetrack officials plan to meet on Wednesday to discuss the merits of the legislation. A similar bill was vetoed last year by California Gov. Gray Davis.

Magna, the owner of Santa Anita, Gulfstream, and six other tracks, endorsed the "Sunshine Millions" plan with the Florida Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association at a meeting on Saturday, in association with the CTBA.

Under the plan, an equal number of Cal-bred and Florida-bred horses would be eligible to start in six $500,000 races and two $1-million races. Four races would be held at Gulfstream and four at Santa Anita, on the same day next winter.

The plan still needs the approval of the Florida Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association and the TOC. Officials of both groups said that they had so far been left out of the planning for the series and that, at first blush, they objected to the use of any regular purse funds for the event.

"I think there would be some major questions raised by our board members" if funds came out of overnight purses, said TOC president Van de Kamp. "You're talking about a significant chunk of change out of the purse account."

Kent Stirling, the president of the FHBPA, said: "No one has told me where this purse money is coming from. But if they are talking about the overnights, I would have to say that I wouldn't support it."

Doug Burge, the president of the CTBA, said that breeders did not believe that horsemen would be asked to provide any funding over what would be generated by the day's handle. Instead, he said most of the horsemen's share would come from shifting money from existing Cal-bred races and from fees to run in the series.

Legislation would be necessary, however, in both California and Florida to allow the use of state-bred purse money for races that are not restricted to state-bred horses, Burge said.

"We're talking about parlaying $300,000 in state-bred money for the potential of $5 million in purses," Burge said. "That's a pretty good trade-off."

The "Sunshine Millions" concept is a variant of Magna's "Super Track Racing" plan last year to hold six $100,000 stakes races at both Santa Anita and Gulfstream. The first installment was canceled at Santa Anita a week after the plan was announced, and only two races of the six were run at Gulfstream due to a lack of entries, with reduced purses.