Those of us who follow New
York racing on a regular basis are used to getting the entire year’s stakes
schedule in January, but in 2014 that was not the case. When I asked the NYRA Press Office for the spreadsheet
that is usually sent out I only got the schedule for the Aqueduct meeting. It
turned out that changes were afoot.
Enter Martin Panza from
Hollywood Park as the new Senior Vice President of Racing Operations for The New York Racing
Association and it did not take long for a new look NYRA stakes schedule to
first news was the blockbuster changes to an already very special Belmont
Stakes day. Enter the Belmont Stakes Festival to run from Friday to Sunday.
Three days of racing that will include new stakes, five traditional events, and
five graded stakes races that were moved from other important days.
Friday, June 6, the inaugural Belmont Gold Cup Invitational will be on run on
the turf course at the very unusual distance of two miles.
Belmont Stakes day will now have 10
stakes races with total purses of $7.7 million, second only to the Saturday
card at the Breeders’ Cup. The biggest change was the move of the Met Mile from Memorial Day.
change was met with a great deal of skepticism in the social media. I, however,
look it at as a great innovation in a racing market that holds the cards that
can easily be shuffled to produce a winning hand. New York should be the racing
circuit that shows that change is both important and necessary if racing is
put together the finest day of racing in Belmont Stakes history," said New
York Racing Association CEO and President Chris Kay. "We want every
serious and casual fan in the area to come out on June 7 and experience the
excitement and fun of one of New York's truly signature sporting
is the premier day of racing at Belmont Park, anchored by the historic Belmont
Stakes," said Panza. "I see June 7 as a summer time Breeders'
Cup-type event. Fans and New York horsemen deserve a day like this."
doubt Panza’s Belmont Festival and his comment above refer to the fact that New
York has not hosted the Breeders’ Cup Championships since 2005 and obviously
will not do so in the near future.
the rest of the stakes schedule was released and we got to see what would
happen on Memorial Day after the move of the Met Mile. Also, the Fourth of July
weekend will be enhanced with the addition of the new Belmont Derby, Belmont
Oaks, and Belmont Sprint Championship.
is fitting that as NYRA shuffles their stakes cards that Memorial Day will
feature the Poker (G3) to be run at
a mile on the turf for older horses. "We are hopeful that, given the lack
of big money opportunities at a mile on the grass, the Poker could attract
two-time defending Horse of the Year Champion Wise Dan," said Panza.
on the Memorial Day card will be the new stakes, the Perrine Ridge and the Wonder
Again, which will serve as prep races for the Belmont Derby and Oaks. The top
three finishers in those preps will be guaranteed invitations to the Derby and
July 5 will be Stars and Stripes Day at Belmont. Both the $1,250,000 Belmont Derby (G1) and
the $1,000,000 Belmont Oaks (G1) will be
run at ten furlongs on the turf for three year-old males and fillies
respectively. The Sprint Championship (G3) will go at seven furlongs. Those new
races have retained the gradings of the previously run Jamaica Handicap, Garden
City, and James Marvin. The Dwyer and Suburban will give the card traditional
say bravo to Panza, and the new look Racing Office at NYRA. This new stakes
schedule combines the best stakes racing that has always happened in New York
with some creative new looks. To this Horse Racing Nation Correspondent the new Belmont stakes schedule looks like a