Santa Anita Park has taken the unusual step of renaming 14 stakes, including six Grade 1 events, for the 2012 autumn meet that begins Sept. 28.
The track, which hosts this year's Breeders' Cup World Championships Nov. 2-3, is completing its break with the Oak Tree Racing Association. The not-for-profit Oak Tree group ran the fall meet in Southern California from 1969 to 2010, almost exclusively at Santa Anita.
"This is the second year in a row that we are running the autumn meet without Oak Tree," noted Rick Hammerle, Santa Anita's vice president of racing, by phone July 13. It is time, he said, "to break away and have our own identity."
Last year, Santa Anita paid Oak Tree a nominal amount to retain their stakes names.
Familiar races such as the Norfolk and the Oak Leaf will henceforth be known as the FrontRunner and Chandelier. Other changes in Grade 1 stakes include the former Goodwood, which will now be known as the Awesome Again, the Yellow Ribbon, which becomes the Rodeo Drive, the Lady's Secret, switching to the Zenyatta, and the former Ancient Title, now to be called the Santa Anita Sprint Championship.
Hammerle said part of the impetus for the changes came from Oak Tree, which in April transferred the Yellow Ribbon name to the former Palomar Handicap at Del Mar.
"It wasn't easy" coming up with the new stakes names, he said. "It's hard enough trying to rename just one stake but I don't know if anyone has ever even tried to rename this many all at one time."
Hammerle said committees came up with the suggestions. "We did a lot of research and tried hard to make sure each name had a tangible meaning, either geographically, historically, or culturally. They also had to be Google-proof" -- against the chance that a new name could be misinterpreted.
The stakes include a pair of new events, the Zuma Beach and the Surfer Girl, which Hammerle said would be preps for the juvenile turf races in the Breeders' Cup lineup. With those additions, Santa Anita will offer 13 major prep stakes during the fall for the 15 Breeders' Cup races.
Fans voted on one of the name changes, making the former Harold C. Ramser Sr. Stakes the new Autumn Miss Stakes. In addition, the California Cup Classic will be known as the Lava Man California Cup Classic.