12/12/2007 12:00AM

NYRA alters stakes schedule

EmailThe New York Racing Association made some subtle and not-so-subtle changes to its 2008 stakes schedule, one that features 111 graded stakes and more than $34 million in purses.

The major changes for 2008 include moving the Grade 1 Man o' War Stakes from the fall to the summer, changing the distance of the Brooklyn Handicap to 1 1/2 miles, and moving the Sword Dancer Invitational back a week, leaving the Yaddo Handicap as a stand-alone Saturday feature the third week of the Saratoga meet.

In moving the Man o' War to July 12, NYRA eliminated the Grade 2 Bowling Green Handicap. NYRA officials believe they now have a nice schedule of Grade 1 turf races beginning with the Manhattan on June 7 right through the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic on Sept. 27 that can get a horse to the Breeders' Cup Turf on Oct. 25 at Santa Anita.

"Moving the Man o' War gave better spacing for our turf races,'' said P.J. Campo, NYRA's racing secretary. "In previous years, we had three races in a seven-week span: the Sword Dancer at Saratoga, and the Man o' War and Turf Classic at Belmont. We found that schedule didn't really work.''

The Sword Dancer will be run on Aug.o16, a week later than usual, and share billing with the Grade 1 Alabama. That leaves Aug. 9 as a very weak Saturday at Saratoga, with the $100,000 Yaddo Handicap for New York-breds as the feature.

With the Breeders' Cup announcing the creation of the inaugural Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile at 1 1/2 miles, NYRA, Keeneland, and Philadelphia Park have put together a series of marathon races to lead up that event. NYRA took the Brooklyn and moved it from the fall to the spring and will run it at 1 1/2 miles on June 6, the day before the Belmont Stakes. The Brooklyn had been run at 1 1/2 miles from 1977-90. This year, it was run at a 1 1/16 miles on Sept. 22.

The $1 million Belmont Stakes, the third leg of the Triple Crown, will be run on June 7. That day's card now includes four Grade 1 races with the upgrading of the Just a Game from a Grade 2. The Manhattan and Acorn will also be run that day.

The Travers, the traditional highlight of the Saratoga meet, will be run on Aug. 23, while the Jockey Club Gold Cup is one of five Grade 1 races to be run at Belmont Park on Sept. 27.