Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Where Will Hollywood Park's Graded Stakes Land? (Where Should They?)

With the imminent closure of Betfair Hollywood Park, the 36 graded stakes are up for grabs to the other tracks on the circuit. Below is listing is of each of graded stakes available, along with where the writer thinks they SHOULD go and where they probably WILL go.

As the chart shows, the reason it is 36 (and not 37) graded stakes is that the Jim Murray Memorial Hcp. has not been run in either of the last two years, which means it will not be graded next year.

Most of the stakes are just going to be carried over from one venue to the other with little change, with some getting the axe due to excessive duplication or monetary issues. The third column is what this blog wish could happen to the schedule instead, taking advantage of certain factors and/or scheduling conflicts. This blog's main suggestions would provide a drastically needed shake-up while throwing a lifeline to a struggling smaller track.

Including Golden Gate Fields
The biggest change suggested is that Golden Gate (whose owners also own Santa Anita) get the Grade 1 Hollywood Gold Cup and the Grade 1 Shoemaker Mile. Moving the races there would not (initially) affect its Grade 1 status, as it is still within California and the basic timing and conditions of the race would remain unchanged. If this were to occur, two prep series could be set-up between the tracks, to help attract attention. The San Francisco Mile (GG) on Derby Day, the American (SA) 4 weeks later, and then Shoemaker Mile (GG) back at Golden Gate Fields on Independence Day would make up the first series (all older male grass miles). For the older main track routers, with the Mervyn Leroy Hcp (SA), Californian (SA), and the newly christened Golden Gate Gold Cup (GG) would make up a comparable series. (Golden Gate Fields will still run the G3 All-American on Memorial Day, as a local prep) Both could have some sort of bonus attached to get connections to run all three. The Golden Gate Gold Cup in particular could be marketed as a sort of test run for any horses who might want to consider a run in Dubai, with it being a similar Tapeta surface as the track at Meydan.

Including Los Alamitos
Los Alamitos is going to run 5 weeks (split among two weeks) next year, and the chance for them to pick up a few stakes that will get squeezed out of the schedule is there. This blog ended up thinking as many as five of them could end up at the track, with four of them being run in the Autumn meet (dark purple). Each of those four graded stakes would fit the configuration of the track AND have a high chance of not being picked up by Del Mar because of Del Mar's short meet. The G3 Laz Barrera was not run this spring/summer meet at Hollywood Park, and at 7 furlongs might have to change distance to be run at Los Alamitos, but it is an intriguing option to any 3yo sprinters who may not handle the Polytrack/facing older at Del Mar. The Hollywood Prevue could be available if Del Mar decides to not run a prep for the Hollywood Futurity, and Los Al could easily pick that up as well.

Hollywood Derby
Del Mar cannot run a ten-furlong grass race because of the configuration of its turf course. So that mean the Hollywood Derby would have to be shortened/lengthened to fit the course. Instead, this blog suggests that it be moved to Belmont Stakes weekend (or the weekend after) of the spring/summer meet. In this case, it would fill a natural void of races for 3yo turf horses early in the year, while also retaining its original distance. The other option is to move it to Santa Anita's autumn meet on closing weekend, forcing the Twilight Derby to opening weekend.

Honestly, this blog didn't cut any of the races from his column because he decided to see how the changes made would affect the schedule. The guesses on which will be cut are based on assumptions from track gossip, logical guesses based on the schedule (including the recently released 2013-2014 Santa Anita Winter meet stakes schedule) and which stakes seemed to be the most redundant compared to the track they are headed. The one stake this blog feels most confident on being cut is the Sunset, as with the Whittingham being a G2 and the omission of the typical closing day feature, the San Juan Capistrano Hcp., from the winter/spring schedule (assuming that it will be placed at the end of the spring/summer meet instead), the numbers don't add up for the Sunset's inclusion on the stakes calendar.

So there is this blog's "ten cents" on what the graded stakes schedule should look like for Southern California after Hollywood Park closes. What's your take? Let it be known in the comments. Good luck everybody.


  1. Some well thought out choices for moving Stakes venues. I was under the impression that Los Alamitos was changing its configuration or was that Fairplex?

    1. Thanks for visiting!

      You have it right in that Los Alamitos is changing its configuration. It is scheduled to be roughly a 7 furlong oval, with a chute making it able to make it run 6 furlongs. Based on what I have read and heard, it might have the same sort of shape as Mountaineer or Kentucky Downs (normal one turn but a smaller Clubhouse turn).

  2. Chris
    Good thoughts all. Unfortunately it does not look like I will be back in Southern California any time soon. Wishing you the happiest holidays and the most profitable New Year.

  3. .10C

    Your name come up at Dan Illmans formblog. Nice hit at PH with Susan's Express this weeked. Congrats ! Hope all is well :)
    SR Vegas