Updated on 09/18/2011 2:40AM

TV dictates two huge stakes days


The creation of two blockbuster made-for-television days of racing highlight the 2007 stakes schedule announced Wednesday by the New York Racing Association.

In supporting the new Breeders' Cup Challenge initiative, the NYRA - which runs racing at Aqueduct, Belmont, and Saratoga - will run four major stakes on July 28 at Saratoga and on Sept. 30 at Belmont Park. The July 28 card, which is the first Saturday at Saratoga, will include the Grade 1 Whitney, the Grade 1 Go for Wand, and the Grade 1 Diana Handicap, as well as the Grade 2 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap. All four races will be televised during a two-hour broadcast on ABC. The Whitney had traditionally been run on the second Saturday of the meet while the Vanderbilt was moved up from the third Saturday of the meet.

The Sept. 30 card, a Sunday at Belmont, will include four Grade 1 events - the Jockey Club Gold Cup Invitational, the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational, the Beldame, and the Vosburgh. Those four races will be televised during a two-hour broadcast on ESPN. The Gold Cup is being run as an invitational for the first time.

The winners of those eight races will earn automatic berths into their respective races in the Breeders' Cup World Championships. Next year's Breeders' Cup will be held on Oct. 27 at Monmouth Park.

By front-loading the first Saturday at Saratoga, it makes for some light days on the second and third Saturdays of the meet, where only one graded stakes will be run each of those days.

"Our initial reaction when we were asked to participate in the Breeders' Cup Challenge was we objected to it," NYRA senior vice president Bill Nader said. "But it was an important initiative for the NTRA and the for the Breeders' Cup so we decided to be good industry participants. The first week of Saratoga is going to be a remarkable week. Is there going to be some exposure in August? Of course there is. We just hope that those races with some solid overnight races carry us through."

The other major changes to the stakes schedule were the elimination of the Grade 2, $150,000 Genuine Risk Breeders' Cup and the Grade 3, $100,000 Floral Park handicaps, sprint races for fillies and mares that were often overshadowed by similar races run at other tracks.

The usual meet highlights remain the same. The Wood Memorial, a key prep for the Kentucky Derby, will be run on April 7 at Aqueduct. The Gotham, a Wood Memorial prep, is scheduled for March 10, a four-week spacing.

The Belmont Stakes, the third leg of the Triple Crown, will be run on June 9 and be supported on the day by the Manhattan, Acorn, Woody Stephens Breeders' Cup, and Just a Game.

At Saratoga, Travers Day will be Aug. 25. The Jim Dandy, the prep for the Travers, will be run on Sunday, July 29, 27 days before the Travers.

* (PDF).