02/07/2014 5:46PM

The New Belmont Stakes Day


Count me in as one who was wowed by the NYRA’s announcement today (Friday) making this year’s Belmont Stakes Day an $8 million day of racing, the second richest in the U. S. behind only Breeders’ Cup Saturday. I love the concept, although I do acknowledge the two biggest reservations that have surfaced so far should be heard.

The biggest complaint seems to concern what the big purse money boosts given to nine of the 10 stakes scheduled for Belmont Stakes Day will do to the overnight purse structure. The counter to that argument is look at the purses right now in New York. If you’re honest and objective about it, you can make a very strong case that many, if not the majority of horses racing in New York right now are competing for purses much bigger than they deserve to be competing for. So at worst, this can and should all even out in the long run.

The other concern seems to be, what if there is bad weather on Belmont Day? It could happen, but poor weather can happen anytime, anywhere. The weather was lousy at Churchill Downs on Derby Day last year, and I’ve been at a Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita where it was 100 degrees (and it felt hotter than that), and it rained ash from nearby wildfires. Hey, this is a game played outdoors, subject to the weather. You hope for good things, but if it rains, you deal with it and make the best of the situation.

The good to this concept far outweighs any bad. Every year, the Belmont Stakes “buzz” is always been entirely dependent on what happens in the first two legs of the Triple Crown. Obviously, the Belmont is electric when there is a Triple Crown shot on the line, and it is still special if you get a showdown between the Derby and Preakness winner. But short of that, which is most of the time, Belmont Day can, for many, fall a bit flat. I don’t necessarily buy into this Breeders’ Cup in June stuff because championships (outside of the 3-year-old male division) are rarely won in June. But this concept does greatly strengthen the footing of Belmont Stakes Day, and makes its success as a big event far less dependent on the Derby and Preakness than it used to be.

If I had one quibble with this new plan, it would be this: The Belmont Stakes is supposed to be the centerpiece of this new event. As such, it should have a purse that is bigger than only $250,000 more than a Met Mile (a race, buy the way, that has LONG been one of my personal favorites), and more than $500,000 larger than the Manhattan and Ogden Phipps. In this context, a purse of $2 million for the Belmont (as opposed to $1.5 million) sounds about right.

Martin Panza, the NYRA’s new Senior Vice President of Racing Operations, deserves a lot of credit for the courage of going bold here, and for achieving the difficult balance of doing so also in a thoughtful way. And we need more bold like this in the game. But even before this announcement, I personally liked the subtle changes Panza had made since coming to NYRA a couple of months ago. Gone are some of the more ridiculous claiming conditions bettors were subjected to, as well as the plethora of phony overnight stakes (really, did patrons of New York racing need three Three Coins Up stakes a year?). Getting rid of the overnight stakes alone will go a long way toward rebuilding what had become a shambles of a graduated allowance race program, and in the long run, that will only make for higher quality racing.

Jerome More than 1 year ago
I think it is stupid to have race cards with multiple graded stakes while the rest of the week the 'feature race' is an 'overnight', allowance or even a high claiming race. All the graded stakes on Belmont Day, other than the Belmont itself, will be relegated, in the minds of fans, to supporting races. They will have NO luster and will seem unimportant. It would be much better in terms of building fan interest in high class horses to have one graded race on each of five days instead of five graded races on one day! Why? Because those other graded stakes, including the 2's and 3's would be the best of the day and the top competitors, especially the winners, would take on an elevated status in the minds and hearts of fans. And the fans would remember those horses and have an interest when they run again. After Belmont Day no one will remember who won a grade 2 or 3 stakes except the people in the industry. Betting fans won't even remember the race, much less who won!
Michael Watchmaker More than 1 year ago
The big problem with your idea of having a graded stakes on each day leading to Belmont Stakes Day is, no one will be paying attention to them, or see them. Conversely, everyone will be paying attention and watching on Belmont Day. Everyone.
Thomas More than 1 year ago
there will be no money left for Saratoga. moving these races to belmont stakes day and raising the purses will not add one person to go to the belmont that might not normally go. overnight purses will have to get cut, and the smaller, non stakes outfits pay the price, but they are the ones who fill the card every racing day.
Corky Pretzels More than 1 year ago
Unfortunately the garbage Mike describes in his last paragraph has come to Florida.
Mickey More than 1 year ago
Mike- No one blames Martin Panza for "trying" its just the way he does things. There is no reason to move the Met Milke off Memorial day....NONE....especially for the casual fan.....(which I am not)....Now for this illogical move...NYRA will probably raise prices across the board for a race (and races) that should be adjusted throughout the year. What happens if it is an all day rain?....no TC on the line...they will get the same 50K (if?) they would have had WITHOUT the added races.....
Michael Watchmaker More than 1 year ago
Mickey, have you considered that a Met Mile on Belmont Stakes Day is seen by anywhere from 50K to 100K on track, and is shown on national tv. A Met Mile on Memorial Day is seen by 10K on track, and is not on national tv.
Walt Gekko More than 1 year ago
Exactly Michael: The Met Mile on Belmont day will be seen by many more people, that said, I would actually be looking for 2015 to flip-flop the Met Mile and Carter with the Met Mile on Wood Memorial Day as the kickoff of a new Handicap Grand Slam: This has NYRA working with Charles Town and Pimlico and has the series consisting of the Met Mile, Charles Town Classic (moved back a week to late in the week prior to Derby week), Pimlico Special (on Preakness Day) and Brooklyn (on Belmont Day) with all four races worth at least $1 Million at their current distances. There can be both participation bonuses for horses who start in all four races (any horse excluded through no fault of the connections in particular from the Charles Town Classic because that race is limited to 10 starters has that race count as a start in the series for this purpose if he can't go due to being squeezed out) and a $5 million bonus to any horse who sweeps the series (provided at least seven betting interests start in each of the four races). These races would be three weeks apart as I would do it and would put an emphasis on running in races closer together.
Bill Kaup More than 1 year ago
I think the Met Mile belongs on Memorial Day as always. Belmont Day doesn't need the Met Mile, but Memorial Day sure does. It won't be the same and will diminish my enjoyment of the holiday. The Met Mile should be a stand alone event which it richly deserves.
Walt Gekko More than 1 year ago
Bill: The problem is, Pimlico is likely to severely jack purses on Preakness week and that if it happens may include the Pimlico Special going to $1 Million. If that happens, the Met Mile would likely only have a 4-5 horse field on Memorial Day because some owners would choose to run at Pimlico just so they can have seats on Preakness Day. NYRA knows this and that's why they made the changes.
DavidM More than 1 year ago
Count me among the many that love the Met Mile right where it was.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
What is Mr. Toys R Us going to charge us for admission to this extravaganza ? That is the question.
Pagani Zonda More than 1 year ago
Dubai can run a huge stakes card on World cup night. usually the BEST horses don't run in the main race. The Sheema Classic draws better horses then the World cup. You have 90% of the best sprinters in the race prior, and nobody seems to have a problem with that. My point is having the Met mile, Acorn, or Manhattan under the Belmont stakes is not the end of the world. Dubai has been successful for the last 4 years at Meydan.
Bugsy Anderson More than 1 year ago
How can they justify this? wait.... the are raising costs for us to just set foot on the grounds. How about spending some of that cash from just one of them races to subsidize the difference between the old entry fee and the current one? How about not raising the purses of a couple of them races, and put it into making the place look nice?
Subtlewave More than 1 year ago
worst idea ever