03/26/2009 12:00AM

NYRA plans Saratoga TV shows


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - The New York Racing Association will produce five one-hour television shows during the course of the Saratoga racing season that will air on MSG-Plus, a regional network that is available on satellite outlets. The programs will offer live coverage of the graded stakes races to be run on five of the six Saturdays of the meet. The lone exception is Travers Day (Aug. 29), as the Travers will be covered by ESPN.

It is also expected - though as of Thursday not finalized - that NYRA will do a show covering next Saturday's Wood Memorial at Aqueduct. That one-hour program would also include live coverage of the Grade 1 Carter Handicap.

By opting to produce its own telecasts, NYRA eschewed the possibility of having some of Saratoga's Saturday races shown nationally on ESPN.

"ESPN was not as many Saturdays, wasn't a regular feature, wasn't quite as extensive," said Hal Handel, NYRA's executive vice president and chief operating officer. "This was a good time to reinforce the relationship we have with MSG; it's certainly no slap at ESPN. We're doing ESPN on Travers Day, it's a two-hour show. We think the regional presence of these shows coupled with the replay show seems to be a good thing to let a horse racing customer know, if he's interested in NYRA, it's almost one-stop shopping."

MSG-Plus airs nightly replays from NYRA's three tracks as well as a weekly show called Thoroughbred Weekly.

The Saratoga stakes to be shown on MSG-Plus include the Diana and Jim Dandy on Aug. 1; the Whitney Handicap and Test on Aug. 8; the Sword Dancer Invitational on Aug. 15; the Alabama on Aug. 22; and the Forego and Woodward on Sept. 5.

The shows will feature NYRA in-house talent including Jason Blewitt, Eric Donovan, Jan Rushton, and Andy Serling.

Belmont Special axed by MTA

As expected, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority scrapped train service from Manhattan to Belmont Park as part of a plan that includes budget cuts and fare hikes. The lone exception is Belmont Stakes Day (June 6).

The "Belmont Special," as it was known, would run twice a day from the city with two trains heading back to the city - one after the seventh race, and one after the nightcap.

NYRA management has not yet finalized plans to compensate for the loss of the Belmont service, though it could announce something next week. One possible solution is to offer shuttle service from a nearby Long Island Rail Road stop such as Bellerose or Floral Park.

"That's an option we'll probably look at," Handel said.

Sunshine for Life back with Schosberg

Sunshine for Life, winner of the Grade 3 Athenia Stakes last fall, has returned to trainer Rick Schosberg's barn and could make it back to the races in the Grade 3, $100,000 Beaugay at Belmont on May 2.

Sunshine for Life, who wintered in Camden, S.C., has worked twice, including a three-furlong move in 36.82 seconds last Sunday. She has not run since finishing fourth in the Long Island Handicap last Nov. 1.

"She's doing real well - she's back ready to roll," Schosberg said. "The Beaugay is a possibility. I don't think it'll take her long to get ready. She trains herself, which the way I'm going these days is a good thing."

Schosberg said he is considering running Giant Moon in the Grade 3 Excelsior on the Wood undercard.

* Jockey Maylan Studart officially became a journeymen rider Friday after earning her 40th career victory when she won the Thursday opener aboard Spa Princess ($4.60). Though she's been riding as a seven-pound apprentice, the 20-year-old Studart loses her apprentice status because it took her longer than one year to earn her 40th career win. She began her riding career in 2007 in Brazil.

* Winning parimutuel tickets from all 2008 races at Aqueduct, Belmont, Saratoga, or any simulcast track that NYRA offers wagering on must be cashed by Tuesday. NYRA mutuel tickets cannot be cashed at any OTB.

* Double entries will be taken Sunday for the Thursday and Friday cards. Entries for Wood Day will be taken Wednesday. With no racing on Palm Sunday (April 5), entries taken Thursday, April 2, will be for the Wednesday, April 8, card.

* All overnight purses for the Wood Memorial Day card will have a $10,000 purse increase. NYRA did the same on Gotham Day.

* Trainer Gary Sciacca broke an 0-for-86 skid in New York dating back to last Dec. 5 when Wise Pitch ($8.90) won Thursday's nightcap. Sciacca, who won Belmont training titles in 1993 and 1997, did win a race at Philadelphia Park on Dec. 28. He was winless with his first 70 starts of 2009.