Note: With the push for expanded gambling once again stalled in this state, expect news like this to further draw Kentucky horsemen out of the Bluegrass in search of a return on their equine investment.
The surge in popularity of New York racing program figures to continue as purses for both the 56-day Belmont Stakes spring meet and the 40-day Saratoga meet will see hefty increases this year, New York Racing Association announced Wednesday.
Stakes purses for the Belmont meeting will increase approximately $1.9 million, or 26.6 percent, to $9.05 million in 2012, while stakes purses for the boutique Saratoga meet will jump $2.85 million, or 27 percent, to $13.35 million this season. Purses for overnight races – overnight stakes, allowance, claiming, and maiden special weights – will increase approximately $8.7 million during the Belmont spring meet and approximately $7.7 million during the Saratoga meet.
Average daily purses, including stakes and overnight races, will go from approximately $430,000 to $620,000 (44 percent increase) for the 2012 Belmont spring meet and from approximately $670,000 to $930,000 (39 percent increase) for the 2012 Saratoga meet.
“The purse increases for overnight and stakes races for the upcoming Belmont Park and Saratoga meets confirm NYRA’s leadership position in thoroughbred racing,” said NYRA Vice President and Director of Racing P. J. Campo. “The enhanced purses should result in larger field sizes, stimulate additional wagering activity, and increase profitability for NYRA.”
The New York racing circuit has been aided in recent months by the revenue brought in by casino gambling at its Aqueduct facility.
The Belmont Spring/Summer meet runs from April 27-July 15 while the Saratoga meet runs from July 20-September 3.
NYRA purse increases are also creating a demand for New York-breds in the marketplace, which is sparking a renaissance in the state’s breeding industry. Breeders from out of state are once again sending their mares to New York, quality stallions have moved to the state, and several large commercial breeding farms have reopened. Purse increases also translate into bigger incentive awards from the New York Thoroughbred Breeding & Development Fund for individual breeders.
The centerpiece of the 2012 Belmont spring meet falls on Saturday, June 9 with the 144th running of the $1 million Belmont Stakes, the third jewel of thoroughbred racing’s Triple Crown. Also on Belmont Stakes Day are the Grade I, $500,000 Manhattan Handicap, the Grade I, $500,000 Just a Game, the Grade II, $400,000 Woody Stephens, and the Grade II, $400,000 True North Handicap.
One of the most notable stakes purse increases for the Belmont spring meet is for the Grade I Metropolitan Mile Handicap, which will be run on Memorial Day, Monday, May 28 with a $750,000 purse, up $250,000 from last year. Additional stakes on Met Mile Day include the Grade I, $400,000 Ogden Phipps Handicap and the Grade 2, $200,000 Sands Point.
Also, the Grade I, $300,000 Acorn will be run on Met Mile Day for the first time, allowing for optimal spacing between it and the Grade I, $300,000 Mother Goose on June 23.
The final Grade I of the Belmont spring meet will be the $600,000 Man o’ War on Saturday, July 14.
The 2012 Saratoga meet will be highlighted by the 143rd running of the Grade I, $1 million Travers Stakes on Saturday, August 25. Four of the largest specific-race purse increases during the Saratoga meet occur during Travers weekend. The Grade I Ballerina, usually run on Travers Day, will now be run on Friday, August 24 with a $500,000 purse, up $250,000 from last year.
On Travers Day, 3-year-old sprinters will be competing for larger purses, with the Grade I King’s Bishop and the Grade I Test both being run for $500,000 pots, up $250,000 from last year.
Closing out Travers weekend will be the Grade I Personal Ensign on Sunday, August 25. With a $600,000 purse, up $300,000 from last year, the Personal Ensign is now one of the premier older filly and mare dirt races in the country.
The Grade I, $750,000 Whitney Handicap is the centerpiece of the two-day Fasig-Tipton Festival of Racing, scheduled for August 4 and 5 and also including the Grade I, $300,000 Prioress and the Grade I, $400,000 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap.
The Test had been previously run on Whitney Day, and now the Prioress has been moved from the Belmont spring meet to take the Test’s place alongside the Whitney. The Grade III, $150,000 Victory Ride, previously run on Travers Day, has been moved to the Belmont Spring meet – Saturday, July 7.
The Grade II Fourstardave, previously run at 1 1/16 miles with a $150,000 purse, will be run at a mile on Saturday, August 11, with a $500,000 purse.
In addition to the aforementioned Grade I races during the Saratoga meet are the following: $300,000 Coaching Club American Oaks on Saturday, July 21, $600,000 Diana on Saturday, July 28, $600,000 Alabama on Saturday, August 18, $600,000 Sword Dancer on Saturday, August 18, $150,000 New York Turf Writer’s Cup Steeplechase on Thursday, August 23, $750,000 Woodward on Saturday, September 1, $500,000 Forego on Saturday, September 1, and $300,000 Spinaway on Sunday, September 2.