The New York Racing Association announced the race dates and stakes schedule for the 2020-21 winter and spring meets at Aqueduct Racetrack.
In addition, NYRA announces that the purse increases now in effect across a number of categories at the Belmont Park fall meet will be extended to the fall, winter and spring meets at Aqueduct.
Purses for open claiming and maiden claiming races at NYRA are the highest in the country. The open $25,000 claiming category will see a $4,000 increase to $50,000, and the $40,000 maiden-claiming condition now will offer a purse of $43,000.
"NYRA is pleased to be able extend these significant purse increases to our upcoming Aqueduct meets as part of NYRA's commitment to year-round racing," said Martin Panza, NYRA Senior Vice President of Racing Operations.
With 42 stakes races on offer worth $4.57 million in purses, the 56-day winter meet begins Thursday, Dec. 10, and runs through Sunday, March 28. Live racing generally will be conducted Thursday through Sunday until the end of February with a holiday break set for Dec. 24-27 and the addition of special Monday cards on Jan. 18 for Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Feb. 15 for Presidents' Day.
Live racing in March will be offered Friday through Sunday through the conclusion of the winter meet on March 28.
The December winter meet calendar will feature a trio of $100,000 stakes races at nine furlongs on the main track, including the Alex M. Robb on Dec. 12 for New York-breds, 3 years old and up; the Bay Ridge on Dec. 13 for New York-bred fillies and mares 3-years-old and up; and the Queens County on Dec. 19 for 3 years old and up.
January racing will open on New Year's Day with the one-mile $150,000 Jerome, the first of three Kentucky Derby prep races at the Big A winter meet. The Jerome will offer 10-4-2-1 qualifying points to the top-four finishers. The Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday card, marking the birthday of the late civil rights leader, is slated for Monday, Jan. 18, and features the $100,000 Interborough for fillies and mares 4 years old and up. There will be no live racing on Thursday, Jan. 14, to accommodate the special holiday card.
The nine-furlong $100,000 Busanda for sophomore fillies on Jan. 24 will provide 10-4-2-1 Kentucky Oaks qualifying points to the top four finishers. The winter meet graded stakes calendar will open with the Grade 3, $150,000 Toboggan, a seven-furlong sprint for older horses on Jan. 30.
New York's road to the Kentucky Derby continues at the Big A winter meet with the nine-furlong, $250,000 Withers (G3) on Feb. 6, offering 10-4-2-1 Kentucky Derby qualifying points to the top four finishers. The Monday, Feb. 15, President's Day Card will be highlighted by the $100,000 Hollie Hughes, a six-furlong sprint for New York-breds, 4 years old and up. There will be no live racing on Thursday, Feb. 11, to accommodate the Presidents' Day card.
A total of 12 racing cards are set for March, featuring eight stakes, including two graded events. The centerpiece of the March racing calendar is the one-mile, $300,000 Gotham (G3) on March 6, which provides 50-20-10-5 Kentucky Derby qualifying points to the top four finishers. The Gotham day card includes the $200,000 Tom Fool Handicap (G3) for 4-year-olds and up going six furlongs; the $250,000 Busher Invitational for 3-year-old fillies offering 50-20-10-5 Kentucky Oaks qualifying points to the top-four finishers; and the $125,000 Stymie for 4-year-olds and up.
On its final weekend, the 56-day winter meet will showcase a 10-stakes card on New York Claiming Championship Day, Saturday, March 27, and the $100,000 East View on Sunday, March 28.
Throughout the 2020-21 Aqueduct winter meet, the trainer of any horse who finishes fourth through last in a race will receive a $300 credit toward an insurance escrow account in the trainer's name with the horseman's bookkeeper. The horse must be an official starter and finish the race. This money can be used only to make New York Jockey Injury Compensation Fund (NYJICF) payments. These funds cannot be withdrawn by trainers. Monies not used by the end of 2021 will refund to the purse account.
The 11-day 2021 Big A spring meet will run Thursday, April 1, through Sunday, April 18, with live racing returning to a Thursday to Sunday schedule. The 2020 spring meet will include 13 stakes worth $2.7 million in purses highlighted by the 96th running of the $750,000 Wood Memorial (G2) on Saturday, April 3.
Opening Weekend of the spring meet will offer six graded races in total beginning on Friday, April 2, with the $150,000 Distaff (G3) at seven furlongs for older fillies and mares.
Wood Memorial day on Saturday, April 3, features the first Grade 1 of 2021 on the NYRA circuit in the $300,000 Carter Handicap, a seven-furlong sprint for older horses. The stakes-laden day is headlined by the Wood Memorial, which offers 100-40-20-10 Kentucky Derby qualifying points to the top four finishers.
Bolstering the lucrative Wood Memorial day card are a trio of Grade 3 races: the $250,000 Gazelle at nine furlongs for sophomore fillies offering 100-40-20-10 Kentucky Oaks qualifying points to the top-four finishers; the $200,000 Bay Shore, a seven-furlong sprint for sophomores; and the $150,000 Excelsior at nine furlongs for older horses.
Closing weekend of the Big A spring meet offers the $200,000 NYSSS Times Square at 6 1/2 furlongs for sophomore state-breds and the $100,000 Woodhaven for sophomore turf routers on April 18. The 11-day spring meet will conclude on Sunday, April 19, with the $200,000 NYSSS Park Avenue at 6 1/2 furlongs for sophomore filly New York-breds and the $100,000 Memories of Silver for sophomore filly turf routers.
As previously announced, the 18-day Aqueduct Racetrack fall meet, offering 29 stakes, including 11 graded events worth $3.41 million in purses, will begin off on Friday, Nov. 6, and run through Sunday, Dec. 6.
The Aqueduct fall meet is highlighted by the 32nd renewal of the $250,000 Cigar Mile (G1) for 3-year-olds and up on Saturday, Dec. 5.