04/16/2014 11:22AM

Finger Lakes opens 162-day meet Friday; 15 stakes on calendar


There are 15 stakes worth a collective $1.1 million scheduled at Finger Lakes Gaming & Racetrack this season, the same as a year ago. The packaging, however, is a little different.

The western New York State racetrack will launch its 2014 season Friday with the first of 162 programs that run through Dec. 5. On opening day, the first post time is 12:35 p.m. Eastern. Racing begins at 1:10 p.m. on all other days except Fridays.

As usual, the New York Breeders’ Futurity for statebred 2-year-olds will be the richest race of the season, with an estimated purse of $200,000. A pair of $75,000 stakes for older New York-bred sprinters, the Leon Reed Memorial Handicap and the Arctic Queen Handicap, have been shifted to the Breeders’ Futurity undercard Oct. 4.

The Tin Cup Chalice and Shesastonecoldfox, both $50,000 stakes for 2-year-olds and both contested for the first time last year on the Breeders’ Futurity card, have been pushed back almost a month as co-features Nov. 1. The new placement allows 2-year-olds from the Breeders’ Futurity to come back and race again in either the Tip Cup Chalice for colts and geldings or the Shesastonecoldfox for fillies.

The season’s biggest race for 3-year-olds, the $150,000 New York Derby, has gotten a new companion with the shifting of the $75,000 New York Oaks from the third weekend in August to July 12. The New York Derby, which will be contested for the 42nd time, is the second leg of the Big Apple Triple for New York-bred 3-year-olds. The $250,000 bonus for any horse who sweeps the Big Apple Triple series has been eliminated.

Overnight purses at Finger Lakes are down slightly in several categories. Maidens who raced for a $24,000 purse in 2013 will run for $20,000 in the opening condition book, a 17 percent decrease. The purse for a first-level allowance for open company has dropped 8 percent from $21,000 to $19,300. Bottom-level claimers will continue to compete for a $9,000 purse. The new bottom has been raised from $4,500 to $5,000.

A pick five has been added to the exotic wagering menu. On a nine-race card, the pick five will begin on race 3 and have a minimum bet of 50 cents.

Improvements to the facility since opening day 2013 are a $12 million expansion project that includes 350 additional slot machines; the 102-seat Wolfgang Puck Express, with a menu that includes Puck’s signature gourmet pizzas, sandwiches, soups, and fresh salads; and Remedy, a 140-seat bar and lounge with an 18-foot high-definition projection screen, 22 additional televisions, Buzztime trivia, and a 324-square-foot stage and dance floor.

The nine-race opening-day program includes a pair of allowance races at 4 1/2 furlongs. Race 7, for horses who have not won an allowance within the past four months, features Frisky Warrior. A five-time winner at Finger Lakes last season, when he was honored as the track’s Horse of the Year, Frisky Warrior won a similar event at this same distance last April.

Race 6, for New York-bred fillies and mares, is led by Jolienne, who went 2 for 3 at Finger Lakes last fall and was claimed after winning two in a row this year at Turfway Park. Also featured in the sixth race will be Crystal Market, a three-time winner locally last season who comes off a good third in a race over Aqueduct’s inner track.