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by Steve Andersen of

No sprints on hillside turf course for Santa Anita fall meet- HORSE RACING, Santa Anita will not run races on its hillside turf course at the autumn meeting, which begins on Sept. 27, and will run turf sprints at 5 and 5 1/2 furlongs during the six-week season.

This will be the first season Santa Anita will run turf sprints at 5 1/2 furlongs. Track maintenance crews have been constructing a backstretch chute this summer to accommodate races at the distance. The races will start on the main track for a few strides before joining the main turf oval.

The only races that will utilized the hillside turf course in any capacity will be the start of marathon turf races at distances of 1 1/4 miles and 1 1/2 miles, according to racing secretary Steve Lym.

The meeting is highlighted by the Breeders’ Cup races on Nov. 1-2. Thursday, Santa Anita published the stakes schedule for the season, which includes 29 non-Breeders’ Cup races.

The distances of three stakes previously run at about 6 1/2 furlongs on the hillside turf course have been shortened. They are the Eddie D Stakes, the Unzip Me Stakes, and the Sen. Ken Maddy Stakes.

The Grade 2 Eddie D Stakes on Sept. 27 will be run at five furlongs and is a prep for the BC Turf Sprint, which will be run at the same distance on Nov. 2.

The $75,000 Unzip Me Stakes for 3-year-old fillies on Sept. 28 and the Grade 3 Sen. Ken Maddy Stakes for fillies and mares on Nov. 2 have been shortened to 5 1/2 furlongs on turf. The distances of two $100,000 turf stakes for statebreds – the California Distaff Handicap on Oct. 12 and the California Flag Handicap on Oct. 19 – have been extended from five furlongs in 2018 to 5 1/2 furlongs this year.

Santa Anita ceased racing on the hillside turf course in early April after a two-horse spill occurred in a race on March 31. From early April through the conclusion of the track’s marathon six-month meeting on June 23, turf sprints were run only at five furlongs.

Lym said on Thursday that races might be reintroduced at about 6 1/2 furlongs on the hillside turf course for the winter-spring meeting, which begins on Dec. 26, but that no plans have been finalized.

For the autumn meeting, the Eddie D Stakes has been upgraded from a Grade 3 and will be worth $200,000, an increase of $100,000 from last year. The Zenyatta Stakes for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles on Sept. 29 – a prep for the BC Distaff on Nov. 2 – has been downgraded from a Grade 1 to a Grade 2. The race will be worth $200,000, a decrease of $100,000 from last year.

Two Grade 1 stakes for 2-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles – the American Pharoah Stakes and the Chandelier Stakes for fillies – have been moved from the first Saturday of the meet to opening day. The races are worth $300,000 each and are preps for the BC Juvenile and BC Juvenile Fillies.

“I’m trying to create some buzz for opening day,” Lym said of moving the races forward by a day.

There are four stakes scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 28, including two Grade 1 races worth $300,000 that are preps for the Breeders’ Cup – the Rodeo Drive Stakes for fillies and mares at 1 1/4 miles on turf and the Awesome Again Stakes for 3-year-olds and up at 1 1/8 miles on the main track.

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