Big news from the Big Apple … The New York Racing Association announced today that this year’s Belmont Stakes card has been goosed to gaudy proportions. Who needs a Breeders’ Cup in New York when Belmont Park can host its own mid-season version?
To be contested on Saturday, June 7 this year, the final leg of the Triple Crown will now be joined by just about all of New York’s top spring races. New additions to the big day include the Met Mile, Acorn, and Ogden Phipps. The three grade 1 races will be part of a single race card that totals $8 million in purses, and features 10 stakes races. These numbers will make it the second richest day in racing behind only Breeders' Cup Saturday. Of course, it remains to be seen if the Breeders’ Cup will fire a retaliatory shot to try to outdo the new Super Saturday of NYRA with a boost to the BC Friday program.
Clearly NYRA wanted to make a splash on its premier day of racing. The ten stakes total is a significant increase from the six carded in 2013. Of real note, however, is the massive difference in purses of those stakes from last year’s $2.95 million, compared to the $7.7 million of this year. I can feel the splash here some 800 miles away.
"We've 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 events."
June 7 it will be then … and also June 6 and June 8. The 13-race Belmont Stakes card will now act as the centerpiece of what NYRA calls the "Belmont Stakes Festival", with graded stakes scheduled for both Friday and Sunday. One of the more interesting highlights of Friday will be the new Belmont Gold Cup Invitational. Paying homage to the seemingly forgotten quality of stamina, the turf race will be for older horses at the distance of two miles.
Furthering the stamina theme will be the "Brooklyn Bonus". This year's renewal of the twelve furlong Brooklyn, now also to be run on Saturday, will include a bonus of $175,000, awarded to any horse who has previously won a graded stakes at 1 3/16 miles or longer that can win the Brooklyn.
Besides the grandeur of the new Belmont Stakes Day, the largest single change is clearly the shifting of the $1.25 million Metropolitan Handicap. The historic and prestigious Met Mile has always been on a short list of my favorite races. While those clinging to history will find it hard to believe that it is no longer on the Memorial Day holiday, I selfishly see it as an opportunity to see the great race for the first time for several years in person.
Overall, I’m a fan of the Big Day surrounding the Belmont Stakes. It should be a great way to shine a national spotlight on the grandest day of racing in New York. I believe racing needs more large thinking like this. Having said that, it will be interesting to see how NYRA fills some of the voids created by the moved races.