07/04/2012 3:07PM

Saratoga 2-year-old maiden sprints limited to eight starters

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The New York Racing Association will limit the number of starters in 2-year-old maiden sprint races to eight at the upcoming Saratoga meet. The limit for starters in two-turn dirt races will remain at 10.

Previously, NYRA allowed as many as 14 horses to run in a juvenile maiden sprint.

P.J. Campo, NYRA vice president/director of racing, said there were two primary reasons for the change.

“The smaller fields are expected to produce more cleanly-run events while also creating the opportunity to showcase more high-quality races during the meet and beyond,” Campo said in a press release. “We expect this change will strengthen NYRA’s juvenile stakes and allowance programs by helping horses gain the experience they need to compete successfully at higher levels.”

Two-turn races on turf at Saratoga that are rained off to the dirt are run at seven furlongs. In the event a juvenile maiden turf event is moved to the dirt and retains 10 starters, it is believed all 10 will be allowed to run though NYRA officials would not comment publicly on Wednesday.

Trainer Rick Violette, president of the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, said the smaller fields should be “kinder and gentler” for the 2-year-olds while giving horsemen a better evaluation of their horse’s performance.

“Large fields of inexperienced young horses often result in roughly-run races,” Violette said. “This approach will offer a kinder, gentler and, perhaps wiser introduction to racing for young horses, and could, in fact, extend their careers.

“Owners will have a better opportunity to fairly evaluate the performances of their horses in manageable fields,” Violette added.

Trainer Todd Pletcher, who starts more 2-year-olds than anyone at Saratoga, felt that limiting juvenile fields to 10 starters at six and seven furlongs would have been a better approach.

“At six and seven furlongs it’s very safe to run 10 2-year-olds or 10 horses of any age,” Pletcher said. “I can understand limiting it to eight at five or 5 1/2 furlongs.”

Saratoga opens on July 20.