Updated on 12/07/2011 6:13PM

Aqueduct stakes purses to rise 32.4 percent in 2012


OZONE PARK, N.Y. – Fueled by income derived from the newly opened casino, stakes purses for the 2012 Aqueduct winter/spring meet will increase by 32.4 percent compared with 2011, with significant purse hikes going to races for 3-year-olds of both genders.

From Jan. 1 through April 21, Aqueduct will run 29 stakes races worth $5.1 million, compared with the same number of stakes worth $3.84 million in 2011. There are 13 graded stakes, compared with 11 last year, and purses for graded stakes are up 44 percent. The New York Racing Association has beefed up the first Saturday of each month with multiple-stakes cards, including four stakes on March 3 and April 7 and three stakes on Feb. 4.

Twenty-seven of the 29 stakes will have a purse increase. The Grade 1 Wood Memorial, New York’s final prep before the Kentucky Derby, will remain at $1 million – receiving the same $250,000 supplement from Genting New York, the casino operator, as a year ago. The Wood will be run April 7. The Ladies Stakes, for fillies and mares at 1 1/8 miles, took a $25,000 cut to $75,000 and has been moved from March to New Year’s Day.

The Grade 2 Top Flight, not run in 2011, replaces the Rare Treat. The Top Flight, previously a one-turn mile over the main track in the fall, will be run at 1 1/16 miles around two turns and be worth $200,000 on March 3.

The road to the Wood Memorial has become more lucrative. After putting it on hiatus for one year, NYRA has brought back the Grade 3, $200,000 Withers in place of the ungraded $100,000 Whirlaway Stakes on Feb. 4. Preceding the Whirlaway in the 3-year-old division is the Count Fleet, an ungraded race worth $150,000 – up from $65,000 – on Jan. 7.

The Grade 3 Gotham received a purse boost of $150,000 to $400,000. The Gotham will be run March 3 and, like the Withers, is run at 1 1/16 miles over the inner track. The Grade 2 Jerome, a one-turn mile race run over the main track, went up $50,000 to $200,000 and will be run April 21.

The Fred “Cappy” Capossela, a six-furlong race for 3-year-olds at six furlongs on March 10, had its purse raised from $65,000 to $100,000.

The Busanda for 3-year-old fillies will be worth $100,000, a $35,000 hike over 2011. The Grade 3 Comely, a one-turn mile race for 3-year-old fillies run over the main track, received a boost of $100,000 to $250,000.

Male sprinters will have plenty of lucrative opportunities, including the Grade 3, $150,000 Toboggan on Feb. 4, the Grade 3, $200,000 Tom Fool on March 3 – both of which received $50,000 purse increases – and the Grade 1, $400,000 Carter on April 7. The Carter was worth $250,000 last year.

NYRA expects to turn a profit

Thanks to the slot machines, NYRA is expected to show a profit in 2012 for the first time in 11 years, NYRA president Charles Hayward told the Business Review. NYRA lost $17 million in 2010 and was projected to lose $11.6 million in 2011. Hayward told the Business Review that net revenue is expected to grow by $45 million in 2012 and that purses in Saratoga could average almost $900,000 a day. NYRA will not release its 2012 budget until the Franchise Oversight Board reviews it on Dec. 19, a NYRA spokesman said.