New Details Emerge on California Crown

Jul 21, 2024

BY Thai Victory

By Bill Finley

Coming off a highly successful Pegasus World Cup Day at Gulfstream, which handled $47.3 million, $3.4 million more than last year, the 1/ST Racing team will now set its sights on creating a similar afternoon of racing at Santa Anita. 1/ST Racing CEO Belinda Stronach announced on NBC’s broadcast of the GI Pegasus World Cup Invitational S. that a day similar to the Pegasus is being created for Santa Anita and will be held Sept. 28.

The event will be called the California Crown and the premier race on the afternoon will be a revamped GI Awesome Again S. It was previously reported that the Awesome Again will be restricted to 3-year-olds, which will not be the case. It will remain a race for 3-year-olds and older.

1/ST Racing President Aidan Butler said that the company is looking to include the GII Eddie D. S., run at 6 1/2 furlongs on the downhill turf course, and the GII John Henry Turf Championship S., run at a mile-and-a-quarter on the turf, as part of the California Crown series. Other races traditionally run that weekend at Santa Anita include the GII Santa Anita Sprint Championship S., the GII City of Hope Mile S., the GII Zenyatta S., the GIII Tokyo City Cup and the $100,000 Unzip Me S.

The key detail that has yet to be announced is what will the purses for the races be. When announcing Saturday on NBC the formation of the California Crown, 1/ST CEO Belinda Stronach said it would be the richest non-Breeders’ Cup Day of racing in the history of Southern California racing. The purse of the 2023 Awesome Again was just $300,000, one tenth the amount given away in the Pegasus.

With so much uncertainty in California racing right now, including how simulcasting revenue in the state will be divided up once Golden Gate Fields closes in June, Butler said it’s too early to announce purses.

“We still have a lot of work out there to figure out what the purses will be,” he said. “There are a lot of decisions that have to be made.  We are hoping we can get everything sorted out soon. But we don’t want to jump the gun and announce purses when we don’t know exactly what is going to happen with the CHRB, with the Northern circuit and with the Southern circuit. There are a lot of things we still have to work on.”

As is the case with the Pegasus, the California Crown will be about more than racing. 1/ST has turned Pegasus Day into a party that attracts a younger crowd and many people who are not regular racing fans.

“The intent is to create a great experience for anyone who is currently a racing fan and for potential new customers,” Butler said.  “There will be entertainment, things to elevate the customer experience. Los Angeles is such a huge market to draw from. People are used to a level of experience at sporting events with lots of entertainment and that’s what we will try to replicate. Everybody thoroughly enjoyed the Pegasus. It was a really cracking day and people had a lot of fun. We want to do the same at Santa Anita. The good thing about Santa Anita is that it is such a big venue you can create an even bigger day. At Gulfstream, we struggle with how many people we can get in the building. We won’t have that issue at Santa Anita.”