Race of the Week 2017

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A New York State of Racing

The New Look Belmont Stakes Schedule

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 appear.
The 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.
On 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.
This 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 going advance.
"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."  
"This 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."
No 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.
Today, 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.
It 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.
Also 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 Oaks.
Saturday, 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 offerings.

I 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 winning hand. 


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Older Comments about The New Look Belmont Stakes Schedule...

I personally like the schedule, especially with the number of races for four and up. Personally as to Saratoga, I would rather see the Woodward back at Belmont for the fall as it was before. If they want a race at a mile and a quarter for Saratoge, why not resurrect the Saratoga Cup. It was one of the storied races at the Spa years ago, and won by a veritable who's who in racing.
Mike in SB -- The big event at SAR is Travers Day amongst a lot of other great stakes races. Could the Spa handle another big event in July?
Thanks Matt, they need to be careful with Saratoga, its the "if its not broke don't fix it" kind of thing. But the expansion of dates and movement of races from Belmont to Saratoga has created a few problems in my opinion, but I don't think the big day strategy they are using at Belmont would be the thing for Saratoga.
Mike in SB -- It would not surprise me if there will be changes at the SPA also. There will be a new racing secretary for Saratoga that is different from the already new AQU racing secretary.
Sorry..cut off. The quality of Turf horses that could be shipped in would be fantastic. You could even attach bonuses for horses who win one of the first two legs, and then wins the final race. Kind of like the Florida Derby/Preakness bonus. Something...ANYTHING to entice the connections.
I love the idea of the Belmont Derby, and like another poster commented on above, there should be a series of 3 races for 3 year olds on turf. They could do a turf Mile race at churchill on Derby day, The Belmont Derby, and then maybe the American St.Leger at 1 3/4m at Arlington, and restrict that to only 3 year olds. You now have a similar 3 race turf "TC" modeled after the English TC. You can now offer something no other country can....TC series on multiple surfaces. You would attract turf runners from Canada, and Europe ( Mainly 2nd stringers, who skip the other Euro classics).
With the Mother Goose only 3 weeks later and the CCAO 3 weeks (presumably) after the Mother Goose, I have to wonder if the Mother Goose will hold onto its G1 rating for much longer.
I like the new changes to the Belmont schedule and I wonder if there will also be changes to the Saratoga schedule. I would love to see the Woodward changed to a 1 1/4 mile race, there is no point in having two Grade One races, the Whitney and Woodward both at 1 1/8 mile. Saatoga needs a major race for older males at the Classic distance.
I wonder if there will also be ch
I loved Caixa. His win in the True North was bittersweet. I cried like a baby during that race. Happy for one horse, so very sad for another. I miss them both.
I'm stoked about The Gold Cup...I would love to see the True North name change to honor Caixa Eletronica
Belmont Gold Cup Invitational at 2 Miles!!!!!!!!!!! YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS
This also now gives Belmont 3 HUGE weekends(Belmont Stakes weekend, July 4th weekend, and Super Saturday). I wasn't a huge fan of the Met Mile moving from Memorial Day and being an "undercard" race on Belmont Stakes day but seeing the way the rest of the stakes schedule has played out I must say I 'm pretty excited about things
I was both shocked and excited to see the 1.25 million dollar Gr.1 Belmont Derby Invitational. This finally gives America a "major" Derby on the turf. I think it is pretty cool. Belmont is as close to a European style track as there is in the states, I hope the Belmont Derby attracts some Euro horses. I am not familiar with the race dates off the top of my head(I know they run in the summer) but would also be cool to see a "turf tripple crown" with maybe the Belmont Derby, Secretariat, and Virginia Derby or something like that. Either way I am excited for this race, should be interesting to see what kind of attention it gets.
better get the seats early. WIll call in favors at Saratoga
I'm with you, Matt ... at least NYRA is willing to take the bat off their shoulders and take some real swings.

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 Meet Matt Shifman 

Matt Shifman has been on the Horse Racing Nation staff since 2011 and currently serves as Assistant Editor. Matt covers Aqueduct, Belmont Park, Monmouth Park, and Saratoga in his two HRN blogs Racing at the Jersey Shore and New York State of Racing.


Matt’s articles and tweets frequently appear in the America’s Best Racing weekly Notebook. In 2012 he became a voter in the NTRA weekly polls for the Top Thoroughbred and Top Three-Year-Old.


The best way to get to know Matt is to check out some of his favorite articles from the past couple years.

• Preakness Interview with Trainer Todd Pletcher

• Kentucky Derby 2016 Handicapping Tips from A to Z


• Edison: the Travels of a Million Dollar Colt 

• A Kentucky Derby Field with Just 14 Horses

• What is the Best Kentucky Derby Running Style?



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