12/30/2016 2:40PM

Maiden 2-year-olds can run for $100,000 in spring at Aqueduct, Belmont

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OZONE PARK, N.Y. – For the second consecutive year, the New York Racing Association will offer $100,000 purses on some of its maiden races for 2-year-olds during the 2017 Aqueduct and Belmont Park spring meetings.

As was the case in 2016, there will be six dirt races – three for males, three for females – that will be worth $100,000. In 2017, there will also be one turf race for each gender worth $100,000. The purpose of rich maiden races – the typical purse of a maiden race during these meets is $75,000 – is to stimulate activity in what for many years has been a dormant early-season juvenile program on this circuit.

The rich maiden races will be called trial races for the Astoria, which is for fillies at Belmont on June 8, and Tremont, for 2-year-olds on June 9. The six-figure maiden races at Aqueduct are scheduled for April 19 and 20, for females and males, respectively, at 4 1/2 furlongs. At Belmont, the $100,000 dirt races will be held on May 4-5 and May 18-19, all at five furlongs. The $100,000 maiden turf races will be on May 25-26, also at five furlongs.

All of those races will be limited to 10 starters with the winner earning $50,000. The remaining payments would be $20,000 to second, $10,000 to third, $7,500 to fourth, $5,000 to fifth, $4,000 to sixth, and $3,500 divided among the remaining runners.

Last year, four of the six races ran with only five starters. There was one eight-horse field and one race went with 10 after drawing 13 entrants. In 2016, the Astoria drew a field of nine but ran with seven, while the Tremont drew a field of seven but ran with four.

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Also implemented for the second straight year is a bonus program for the owners and trainers of New York-bred 2-year-olds who finish in the top three in a New York-bred or open maiden race during the Aqueduct or Belmont spring meets.

The program, conducted in partnership with the New York Breeding Fund, awards bonuses of $7,000, $4,500, and $2,500 to the owners of New York-breds who finish first, second, or third in a maiden 2-year-old race. Trainers of those runners would get a bonus of $3,000 for first, $2,000 for second, and $1,000 for third.

According to NYRA, there were 26 juvenile maiden races run between Aqueduct and Belmont in the spring of 2016, 10 more than in 2015. The maiden races attracted 222 total starters last year, a 66 percent increase over 2015’s total of 134, with an increased average field size of 8.5.

“A strong 2-year-old program is important to the Aqueduct and Belmont spring meets, and the high demand for the bonus program in 2016 shows us that we’re moving our racing program in the right direction,” said Martin Panza, NYRA’s senior vice president of racing operations. “It’s one thing to offer races, but it’s another thing to make sure they go. We want our horsemen to feel confident when they send their 2-year-olds to New York in April, May, or June that we will make every effort to be sure these races are used.”