02/13/2014 2:34PM

Belmont Park spring stakes schedule has six stakes worth at least $1 million

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Barbara D. Livingston
Palace Malice, shown training at Palm Meadows this winter, won the 2013 Belmont Stakes, which has been boosted this year from $1 million to $1.5 million.

The beefed up Belmont Park spring/summer stakes schedule isn’t confined to Belmont Stakes Day.

One week after announcing that the June 7 Belmont Stakes Day card will be the second-richest program on the North American calendar, the New York Racing Association released the entire spring/summer schedule that will present 62 stakes worth $17.95 million in purses – including six races worth at least $1 million. In 2013, Belmont’s spring/summer meet offered 37 stakes worth $9.3 million with only the Belmont Stakes worth $1 million.

The 2014 schedule includes several $100,000 stakes that in past years were run as overnight stakes, and the money for those comes out of overnight purses and not stakes purses.

On the heels of a June 7 card that offers 10 stakes worth $7.7 million – topped by the $1.5 million Belmont Stakes – will be a July 5 program that will offer five stakes worth $3.25 million. That card will include the inaugural runnings of the Belmont Derby Invitational, a 1 1/4-mile turf race for 3-year-olds with a purse of $1.25 million, and the Belmont Oaks Invitational, a 1 1/4-mile turf race for 3-year-old fillies that will be worth $1 million.

[COMPLETE BELMONT PARK SPRING STAKES SCHEDULE]

In order to be offered as Grade 1 races, the Belmont Derby will replace the Jamaica on the schedule while the Belmont Oaks will replace the Garden City. The Jamaica and Garden City have typically been run at the Belmont fall meet. The Grade 3 Hill Prince and the Grade 2 Sands Point will be moved from the spring to the fall for those divisions and both be worth $500,000.

Also being offered on the July 5 program – which will be promoted as Stars and Stripes Day – is the Grade 2, $500,000 Suburban, which will return to 1 1/4 miles for the first time since 2009; the Grade 3, $200,000 Dwyer for 3-year-olds, and the Grade 3, $400,000 Belmont Sprint Championship at seven furlongs. That race was formerly known as the James Marvin, a race that had been offered on opening day at Saratoga and gained traction as a prep for the Grade 1 Forego.

The creation of the Belmont Derby and Belmont Oaks is the brainchild of Martin Panza, NYRA’s senior vice president of racing operations. During his stint as director of racing at Hollywood Park, Panza created the American Oaks for 3-year-old fillies on the turf.

“That purse was $700,000 and initially it was getting 14-horse fields,” Panza said. “In New York, it will draw some horses from Europe, we’ll work on drawing horses from Japan. It’s a process. It’s the first year, it doesn’t mean it’s going to work right away, but it will work.”

Panza said that part of his decision to schedule those two turf races on July 5 was because “those are two categories that don’t really affect on a large scale Saratoga.”

With races like the Metropolitan Handicap, Phipps, Acorn and Jaipur being moved to Belmont Stakes Day, the Memorial Day card will now offer the Grade 3, $300,000 Poker at a mile on turf, the $200,000 Pennine Ridge, essentially a 1 1/8-mile prep for the Belmont Derby, and the Jersey Girl, a sprint stakes for 3-year-old fillies.

In an attempt to beef up the 2-year-old program, Panza is reviving the Astoria and Tremont Stakes, for juvenile fillies and juvenile males, run June 14 and 15, respectively. Those races haven’t been run since 2008.