Each year, the Santa Anita Park Autumn Meet packs in three of the deepest meet-opening racing days of any major American track. This year’s 16-day Autumn Meet continues the trend, stacking seven Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series events on the track’s opening weekend.

Santa Anita-2021 Autumn Stakes
Just like these Thoroughbreds, Santa Anita Park jumps out to a fast start for its 16-day Autumn Meet. The iconic West Coast track offers 13 stakes races on its opening weekend, including seven Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series events. (Image: Santa Anita Park)

“Our intention is to get the Autumn Meet off to a fast start,” Santa Anita Director of Racing and Racing Secretary Chris Merz told Santa Anita’s Mike Willman. “With the Breeders’ Cup at Del Mar this year, we want the word to go out far and wide that we’re offering tremendous opportunities for owners and horsemen to prep here, and have their best possible chances for championship success on November 5 and 6.”

Getting off to a fast start begins with three Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” events on opening day, Friday, Oct. 1. The main event that day is the Grade 1 American Pharoah, which sends its winning 2-year-old to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. That race usually decides the Champion 2-Year-Old Male come Eclipse Award time.

The same goes for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies. Win that race and you’re likely the Champion 2-Year-Old Filly. Taking a strong step there comes with winning the Grade 2 Chandelier Stakes. Both the American Pharoah and Chandelier send their juveniles 1 1/16 miles on Santa Anita’s main dirt track.

Awesome Again promises look at Classic contenders

Rounding out Friday’s Challenge Series is the Speakeasy Stakes. That five-furlong sprint sends its winner to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint.

The track’s longtime fall stakes mainstay, the Grade 3 Eddie D. Stakes, rounds out Friday’s opening day stakes slate. Named after the legendary Hall of Fame jockey Eddie Delahoussaye, the Eddie D. sends its 3-year-old-and-up contestants 6 ½ furlongs on the turf.

Three more Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series events headline the next day, Saturday, Oct. 2. The first-among-equals there is the Grade 1 Awesome Again, which sends its winner of the 1 1/8-mile route to the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Last year, that was Improbable, who finished second to stablemate Authentic in that Classic at Keeneland.

Rodeo Drive at Santa Anita

The Grade 1 Rodeo Drive Stakes takes its 3-and-up fillies and mares 1 ¼ miles around Santa Anita’s turf course. The winner gets a spot in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf. Sprinters get their say in the Grade 2 Santa Anita Sprint Championship, a six-furlong dash with a spot in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint awaiting the winner.

The Grade 2 City of Hope Mile rounds out the day’s stakes schedule.

Santa Anita Park-Key Autumn Meet Stakes Races

Race Grade  Distance Eligible Horses
Oct. 1 American Pharoah* I 1 1/16 miles 2-year-olds
Oct. 1 Chandelier* II 1 1/16 miles 2-year-old fillies
Oct. 1 Speakeasy* Listed 5 furlongs (turf) 2-year-olds
Oct. 1 Eddie D. III 6 1/2 furlongs 3-and-up
Oct. 2 Awesome Again* I 1 1/8 miles 3-and-up
Oct. 2 Rodeo Drive* I 1 1/4 miles (turf) 3-and-up fillies & mares
Oct. 2 Santa Anita Sprint Championship* II 6 furlongs 3-and-up
Oct. 2 City of Hope Mile II 1 mile (turf) 3-and-up
Oct. 3 Zenyatta* II 1 1/16 miles 3-and-up fillies & mares
  • – denotes Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series race

Merz carded five stakes for Sunday, Oct. 3, including the seventh and final Challenge Series race, the Grade 2 Zenyatta. Named after the incomparable filly who won the Breeders’ Cup Classic, the 1 1/16-mile Zenyatta puts a berth in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff at stake.

“We anticipate great weather with optimal conditions for both training and racing,” Merz said. “When you factor in that we’re just a 90-minute van ride away from Del Mar, we’re hopeful a good many folks will choose to race here this fall. We look forward to welcome everyone and to providing lucrative gambling opportunities to our fans as well.”

Santa Anita announced Tuesday it raised its overnight purses 10%. That’s the third consecutive purse bump, dating to the 2020 autumn meet.