Updated on 09/15/2011 1:39PM

Some alterations to statebred slate


ARCADIA, Calif. - There are only minor changes from last year on the 59-race stakes schedule for California-breds in 2002.

The main events - the California Gold Rush Day at Hollywood Park on April 28 and the California Cup on Nov. 2 - will return, offering high-caliber racing six months apart on days designed to showcase the breed.

The schedule actually starts this week with the opening of the Santa Anita winter-spring meeting. The first race in northern California on the statebred schedule is the $100,000 Work the Crowd Handicap for fillies and mares on turf on Jan. 5 at Golden Gate Fields.

From Friday's $150,000 divisions of the California Breeders' Champion Stakes for 2-year-olds to the $100,000 On Trust Handicap at Hollywood Park in late November, there are major races for statebreds who are steering clear of the stronger competition in graded stakes. Some horses will reach their peak against statebreds, while others will use statebred races as a springboard to a bigger stage.

The most significant developments in 2002 are on Gold Rush Day and in the restructuring of the California Sires Stakes, run for 2-year-olds each fall at Santa Anita.

On Gold Rush Day, the Melair Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, has had its purse raised from $150,000 to $200,000 and its distance changed from 6 1/2 furlongs to 1 1/16 miles. The Melair will be the second-richest race on Gold Rush Day, behind only the $250,000 Snow Chief Stakes for 3-year-olds over 1 1/8 miles.

"We wanted to make it a race similar to the feature race of the day," said Doug Burge, the executive director of the California Thoroughbred Breeders Association.

The 10-race Gold Rush Day program will be run on the Sunday before the Kentucky Derby.

One benefit of running the Gold Rush Day program in late April, Burge said, is that it gives participants the opportunity to run in other races at the Hollywood Park spring-summer meeting.

Makeover for sires series

The races formerly known as the Sires Stakes are being completely redesigned. Previously, they were run for the progeny of nominated stallions and required owners to meet a payment schedule. Consequently, the races tended to attract to a small group of horses.

By dropping the restrictions, the $75,000 races, which have yet to be named, are intended as preps for the California Cup Juvenile and Juvenile Fillies.

In some cases, they served that purpose in the past, except not for all California-breds, only those who remained eligible through the process.

"We don't have a date yet, but they'll be three weeks before to the Cal Cup," Burge said of the 2-year-old Sires Stakes.

The 3-year-old division of the Sires Stakes program will be run as scheduled at Hollywood Park this summer. Scheduled for late May, the races are run over 1 1/16 miles on turf, and seldom draw strong fields.

The California Cup date will be a week after the Breeders' Cup for the second consecutive year. In November, $19.9 million was handled on the California Cup program and it attracted an ontrack crowd of 37,184.

In the late 1990's, the California Cup preceded the Breeders' Cup by a week, but after this year's success, CTBA officials decided that the California Cup can thrive where it is.

"After the success of this year, I don't want to make a change," Burge said.

Stakes conditions for Cal Cup Day and the Gold Rush Day may be modified later on.

The conditions for the three Cal Cup starter handicaps - which in past years were restricted to horses who had started for a certain claiming price during the year - are likely to be changed to allowance conditions for horses who have not won a certain amount of purse money. The details are yet to be final.

Burge envisions conditions similar to those of the existing Generous Portion Stakes for 2-year-old fillies at Del Mar, which include a condition for non-winners of a first-place purse of $35,000 other than closed or claiming.

"In 2002, races restricted to horses that have started for a claiming price will not qualify for black type," Burge said. "Obviously, we want those races to be black type."