Belmont adds trio of marathon stakes to slate
Three new marathon races that New York Racing Association officials hope could fill a void on the national calendar have been added to the Belmont Park spring-summer stakes program for 2016.
The races are the $200,000 Belmont Coronation Invitational, for fillies and mares at 1 15/16 miles on turf June 9; the $150,000 Rags to Riches Invitational, for fillies and mares at 1 1/2 miles on dirt June 10; and the $100,000 Flat Out, for 4-yearolds and up at 1 3/8 miles on dirt May 15.
Also, the Grade 2 New York Stakes, for fillies and mares at 1 1/4 miles on turf, had its purse bumped to $500,000 from $300,000 and serves as the anchor to the program on June 10, the day before the Belmont Stakes.
“Staying races in America, there are not a lot of them,” said Martin Panza, NYRA’s senior vice president of racing operations. “We have money, we can do something. I think it’s good for the entire industry.”
The Belmont Coronation has been added to the June 9 program as part of the threeday Belmont Stakes Racing Festival, which NYRA is trying to build up. It is the sister race to the Belmont Gold Cup Invitational at two miles on turf, which is one of six stakes on the June 10 program.
Of course, the $1.5 million Belmont Stakes – the third leg of the Triple Crown – on June 11 is the highlight of the $19.2 million spring-summer stakes program. That day features 10 stakes – six Grade 1’s – worth a total of $7.5 million. The Grade 1 Acorn for 3-year-old fillies, which is run Belmont Day, took a $50,000 purse cut to $700,000.
The other big day on the Belmont spring-summer schedule is the July 9 Stars & Stripes Day, topped by the $1.25 million Belmont Derby for 3-year-olds and the $1 million Belmont Oaks for 3-year-old fillies. Both are Grade 1 races at 1 1/4 miles on turf. Other stakes that day are the Grade 2, $500,000 Suburban, the Grade 3, $400,000 Belmont Sprint Championship, and the Grade 3, $150,000 Victory Ride.
Panza explained that because the Belmont Stakes is so late this year, he was forced to push the Stars & Stripes card back a week.
In a bid to stimulate earlier action in the 2-year-old program, Belmont in May will offer two $100,000 maiden races for 2-year-old males and two for 2-year-old females that lead to the Astoria and Tremont stakes, run June 9 and 10, respectively. The Astoria and Tremont have $200,000 purses, $50,000 less than in 2015.
The Belmont spring-summer meet runs from April 29 through July 17.
The stakes program for the 2016 Saratoga meet mirrors that of 2015, with 69 stakes worth $18.73 million. The only change is that the race formerly known as the Schenectady has been renamed the Skidmore. The race is for 2-year-olds going 5 1/2 furlongs on turf.
The two biggest days of the Saratoga meet are Aug. 27, when the $1.25 million Travers is one of seven stakes on the card, and Aug. 6, when the $1.25 million Whitney tops a program with five stakes.
The Saratoga meet runs from July 22 through Sept. 5.