12/15/2014 12:47PM

Aqueduct raises purses, adds stakes to spring meet

Barbara D. Livingston
Aqueduct purses will increase for maiden special weight and allowance races for its spring meet.

The New York Racing Association will try to entice horsemen who winter in south Florida to return to New York in early April by raising purses for overnight races and adding a handful of new turf stakes to the Aqueduct spring schedule.

The 19-day meet, which runs April 1-26, will have maiden special weight purses increase by $10,000 to $70,000, while first-, second-, and third-level allowance races will go up by $5,000 apiece and be worth $72,000, $74,000, and $78,000.

“These races comprise the backbone of our racing schedule and will rise in accordance with the new focus on this special meet,” said Martin Panza, the senior vice president of racing operations for NYRA.

On recommendations made by the New York Task Force on Racehorse Health and Safety, claiming purses are restricted to twice the claiming price for which horses are offered, so those purses cannot increase.

NYRA will offer 14 stakes during the meet, topped by the $1 million Wood Memorial, the final local stepping-stone to the Kentucky Derby. The Wood Memorial will be run April 4 on a card that includes the Grade 1 Carter at seven furlongs, which had its purse cut from $500,000 to $400,000. The Grade 3 Bay Shore and Grade 2 Gazelle – each worth $300,000 – are on the April 4 card, as is the inaugural Danger’s Hour, a $100,000, one-mile turf stakes.

The Danger’s Hour, for 4-year-olds and up, is one of four new turf stakes NYRA has scheduled during the spring meet. The others are the Plenty of Grace, for fillies and mares, and the Woodhaven and Memories of Silver, for 3-year-olds and 3-year-old fillies, respectively.

NYRA cut one sprint stakes for 3-year-old fillies from the winter meet but added the $100,000 Belle Harbor for that division on closing day, April 26.

In one additional change, the Grade 3 Excelsior had its purse raised $50,000 to $200,000 and was extended to 1 1/4 miles from 1 1/8 miles. It will be run April 25.