12/09/2004 12:00AM

NYRA scrambles Saratoga, Belmont 2-year-old stakes


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - The New York Racing Association made several noteworthy changes to its stakes program for 2005, a year in which it will host the 22nd Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships at Belmont Park on Oct. 29.

The most notable changes were in the 2-year-old program, where NYRA dropped the Schuylerville and Sanford - the traditional first- and second-day stakes at Saratoga - and in their place brought back the Adirondack and Saratoga Special, races that were dropped from the 2004 calendar.

Racing secretary Mike Lakow said this change was made to protect the graded status of all four races in the event NYRA would want to bring them all back in 2006. Stakes that are not run for two consecutive years automatically lose their graded status, Lakow said.

NYRA moved the Spinaway and Hopeful to the fifth week of the meet. In 2003, they were moved from the last week of the meet to the fourth week. The Hopeful will now be run on Travers Day, Aug. 27; the Spinaway the previous day.

Lakow decreased the distances of the Futurity and Champagne for 2-year-old colts and the Matron and Frizette for 2-year-old fillies, all run during Belmont's fall meet. The Futurity and Matron - on Sept. 17 - will now be run at seven furlongs instead of one mile. The Champagne and Matron, run at 1 1/16 miles since 1994, will be cut back to one mile.

"A lot of 2-year-olds come out of Saratoga and most of them have gone six, 6 1/2, or seven furlongs," Lakow said. "We gave those horses another chance to run a major race going seven furlongs. We felt going seven furlongs to 1 1/16 miles was a little too much."

At Saratoga, Lakow moved the Jim Dandy back to opening weekend, which will give 3-year-olds four weeks to the Travers. In turn, the Dwyer, a race for 3-year-olds at Belmont, has also been moved back a week, to July 4.

For the first time, NYRA will run stakes for 2-year-olds on turf at Saratoga. The P.G. Johnson, named in memory of the Hall of Fame trainer who died last August, will be for colts, while the With Anticipation will be for fillies. Both races will be run at 1 1/16 miles.

At the Belmont spring meet, the Acorn for 3-year-old fillies has been moved from the day before the Belmont Stakes to the week before that race. The Brooklyn Handicap will now be run on Belmont Stakes Day, June 11. The Just a Game Breeders' Cup had its purse boosted to $300,000.