By CBSLA Staff

ARCADIA (CBSLA) – Santa Anita Park is scheduled to begin its winter/spring meeting Saturday with a 10 percent increase to its daily overnight purse distribution, a bonus plan to attract out-of-state horses, and a new turf course chute.

It will be held without fans in attendance because of the coronavirus pandemic, just like other meetings in California since the resumption of racing May 15 following a nearly two-month interruption because of the coronavirus pandemic.

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The increase will bring the average daily purse money available to horsemen to more than $533,000, totaling more than $43 million for the upcoming season, which is set to run through June 20.

Purses at Santa Anita, like all California racetracks, are derived from a percentage of the handle wagered on the track’s races, as opposed to other jurisdictions where purses are supplemented with casino revenue and other forms of wagering.

“Building Santa Anita’s aggressive overnight purse schedule is a reflection of the confidence that we have in California racing even in the midst of a pandemic,” said Craig Fravel, CEO of 1/ST Racing, the unit of The Stronach Group, which owns Santa Anita, that operates the company’s tracks and training centers.

Santa Anita is also offering the Sunshine Bonus, which provides several significant incentives to out-of-state owners and trainers to race their horses at the Arcadia track.

In addition to providing a $3,000 starter’s bonus to eligible out-of-state horses, the Sunshine Bonus will also award a 35 percent bonus, above regular purse money-won, to eligible horses in their first five Santa Anita starts.

Trainer Robert Falcone, Jr. has brought 25 horses from New York’s Belmont Park to Santa Anita for the winter/spring meeting.

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“A lot of factors went into making the move. This is a nice environment and the people here are very accommodating.  Obviously, the Sunshine Bonus is very important and with the 10% increase in overnight purses, we realized the purses this winter at Santa Anita are a little better than at Gulfstream,” Falcone said, referring to Hallandale Beach, Florida track also owned by The Stronach Group.

The 80-foot wide and approximately 800-foot long turf course chute enables the track to offer fans and horsemen a wide array of turf sprints that previously had not been available.

The chute runs parallel to the seven-furlong main track chute, crosses the dirt oval, and joins up with the turf oval at approximately the five-furlong pole. It will allow for sprint races at distances of 6 1/2, six, 5 1/2, and five furlongs on the turf oval known as “the flat.”

The turf chute project represents the first significant alteration to the Camino Real Course, which was unveiled on December 26, 1953.

There were no equine fatalities during Santa Anita’s 16-day autumn meeting which concluded October 25. Sixteen horses died in racing or training- related incidents during Santa Anita’s 2019-20 winter/spring meeting, which ended June 21.

The unraced 2-year-old filly Penelope Rose fractured her right front humerus while galloping during a workout at Santa Anita December 16 and was euthanized.

Fans can watch and wager on Santa Anita’s live races via account deposit wagering platforms including 1stBet.com and XpressBet.com. The track’s complete simulcast presentation is streamed free by going here.

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The opening day 11-race card includes five graded stakes races.