11/14/2009 12:00AM

Sunshine Millions scaled down for 2010


Purses have been cut in half, and two races have been eliminated from the event, but the Sunshine Millions will go on, according to Magna Entertainment Corp., the bankrupt parent company of the two tracks where the event for Florida-breds and California-breds is held.

The date of the event will be Jan. 30, Magna said in a release. The six races scheduled for this year, down from eight in the seven previous renditions of the event, will be split three each between Santa Anita Park in Southern California and Gulfstream Park in Florida, the release said.

Total purse distribution for the six races, which are restricted to California-bred and Florida-bred horses, will be $1.8 million. In the previous six runnings, the Sunshine Millions included eight races with total purse distribution of $3.6 million. The biggest cut will affect the Classic, for 4-year-olds and up at 1 1/8 miles on Santa Anita's artificial surface, down from $1 million to $500,000.

The other two races to be held at Santa Anita will be the Filly and Mare Turf, for older fillies and mares at 1 1/8 miles, with a purse reduced from $500,000 to $300,000, and the Filly and Mare Sprint, for older fillies and mares at six furlongs on the artificial surface, with a purse of $200,000, down from $300,000.

At Gulfstream, the three races will be the Distaff for older fillies and mares on the main track, with a purse of $300,000, down from $500,000; the Turf, for older horses at 1 1/8 miles on the grass, also reduced from $500,000 to $300,000; and the Sprint, for older horses at six furlongs, with a purse of $200,000, down from $300,000.

The two races that were eliminated are the $250,000 Dash, a six-furlong race for 3-year-olds, and the $250,000 Oaks, a six-furlong race for 3-year-old fillies.

"Given the current state of the economy, I think everyone understands why these purse reductions are necessary," said Ron Charles, the president of Santa Anita, in a statement. "It's just something that we had to do at this time, and we feel these adjusted purses will remain very, very lucrative to horsemen and will thus ensure another first-class day of competitive racing."

Charles had indicated earlier this year that major changes were in store for the Sunshine Millions. Purses have been cut repeatedly at California tracks since the recession began, and Magna is currently attempting to sell many of its tracks as a way to raise money to retire hundreds of millions of dollars in debt and reorganize under the protection of a Delaware bankruptcy court.

The Sunshine Millions was first held in 2003. It was conceived by Magna's chairman and founder, Frank Stronach, and strongly supported by California and Florida breeding organizations and horsemen.