03/04/2010 12:00AM

NYRA cuts Belmont/Saratoga stakes schedule


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - As part of its objective to cut $4.3 million in stakes purses from last year, the New York Racing Association trimmed a total of approximately $1.4 million from its stakes program for the Belmont spring/summer and Saratoga meetings, according to a schedule that was released Thursday.

The expanded Saratoga meet - now 40 days instead of 36 - will include 52 stakes worth $10.875 million compared with 48 stakes worth $11.17 million in 2009. The most notable change at Saratoga is that the Ruffian, for fillies and mares, and traditionally run at the Belmont fall meet, has been moved to Aug. 1, taking the place of the Go for Wand, which has been furloughed. NYRA officials had said they would likely eliminate one of the older filly and mare stakes and P.J. Campo, NYRA's vice president/director of racing, said the downgrading of the Go for Wand to a Grade 2 made that the one to cut.


Saratoga picks up the $250,000 Coaching Club American Oaks from Belmont Park and will run it on the opening Saturday, July 24. The distance has been changed to 1 1/8 miles, making it a stepping-stone to the Alabama at 1 1/4 miles on Aug. 21. The purse of the Alabama has been cut by $100,000 to $500,000. Other Grade 1 races such as the Ballerina, King's Bishop, Forego, Spinaway and Hopeful had their purses cut by $50,000 to $250,000. That conforms to the North American Graded Stakes Committee's requirement that all Grade 1 races be worth a minimum of $250,000 as opposed to $300,000 in 2009.

The Woodward, which had its purse raised to $750,000 during last year's meet to lure Rachel Alexandra, will keep its purse at that level and be run Sept. 4. A week earlier, Aug. 28, is the biggest day of the meet with five stakes anchored by the $1 million Travers.

The Belmont spring/summer meet feature 33 stakes worth $7.4 million, compared with 36 stakes worth $8.5 million in 2009. The meet runs from April 30 to July 18.

Traditional stakes such as the Peter Pan, Tom Fool, Nassau County, and Poker have been eliminated from the 2010 schedule. Also, races such as the Metropolitan, Suburban, and New York handicaps had their purses slashed by $100,000 while the Ogden Phipps, Mother Goose, and Prioress had their purses dropped by $50,000.

The Man o' War and Jaipur have had their purses increased by $100,000 and $50,000 respectively, with those supplements coming from the Breeders' Cup, according to Campo.

The Dwyer, traditionally run in July, has been moved to May 8, replacing the Peter Pan as this circuit's traditional prep for the $1 million Belmont Stakes, which will be run on June 5.

NYRA does not plan to release its Belmont fall stakes scheduled until July, Campo said. However, one notable change for the fall meet is that the Kelso will now be run on the dirt instead of the turf. The race will serve as a prep for the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile.

Campo said that NYRA is planning to cut $4.3 million from its stakes purses in order to hold overnight purses at their current levels. According to Campo, stakes purses will make up about 28 percent of the total purse money paid out, as compared to 30 to 32 percent as in years past.