By Bill Finley
Confident that racing will resume shortly at Santa Anita, the track’s racing department has released a stakes schedule that covers May 16 through the end of the meet on June 21. There are several changes to the stakes program, including new dates for the GI Santa Anita Derby and GII Santa Anita Oaks, as well as reduced purses for many of the track’s top races.
Santa Anita is hoping to begin racing again on May 15, but is still waiting approval to do so from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. The track last raced on Mar. 22.
“The purse account is a delicate balancing act for every track,” said Aidan Butler, the acting executive director of California operations for The Stronach Group, in reference to cuts to the stakes purses. “California is one of the few states forced to rely solely on parimutuel wagering to fund the account, without revenue from slots or other casino gaming as is prevalent in other jurisdictions. When the COVID-19 pandemic halted live racing at most of the tracks in the state, it necessitated a change to our stakes program to enable us to best support the entire program when racing continues. This is no different than is being done at other tracks throughout the country, including those whose purses are subsidized by other forms of gaming.”
Twenty-nine stakes have been scheduled. There will be 16 graded stakes and four Grade I events. The new stakes season kicks off Saturday, May 16 with the $150,000 Echo Eddie S. and the $150,000 Evening Jewel S., two races for California-breds.
Several of the stakes have been lumped together for two “showcase” days of racing, May 25 and June 6. The May 25 card will include the GI Shoemaker Mile, the GI Gamely S. and the GII Monrovia S. The Shoemaker and Gamely purses have been reduced from $500,000 to $300,000. A race must have a purse of at least $300,000 to keep its Grade I status.
The June 6 card will be topped by the Santa Anita Derby, which was originally set to be run Apr. 4 with a purse of $1 million. The race will now be worth $400,000. The card that day will also include the GI Gold Cup at Santa Anita and the Santa Anita Oaks. The Gold Cup purse has been cut from $500,000 to $300,000 and the Oaks purse has been reduced from $400,000 to $200,000. Seven stakes races are slated to be run June 6.
As it will come one month after the GI Arkansas Derby, the Santa Anita Derby is now well positioned to be the next step on the road to the GI Kentucky Derby on Sept. 5.
A total of 14 stakes races that were part of the original schedule for the meet will not be run.