04/23/2014 12:05PM

Whitney purse doubled to $1.5 million


The Whitney Handicap Invitational had its purse doubled to $1.5 million and is the centerpiece of an enhanced early meet program that rivals Travers Day on the Saratoga stakes calendar released Wednesday by the New York Racing Association.

The Whitney, for 3-year-olds and up at 1 1/8 miles and worth $750,000 in past years, will be joined on the Aug. 2 card by the $500,000 Test – moved from Travers Day – and the $350,000 Alfred G. Vanderbilt – moved from the day after the Whitney. Those three Grade 1 races will be joined on the card by the De La Rose and Lure, a pair of overnight turf stakes.

Meanwhile, the Travers, historically the richest race of the Saratoga meet, had its purse boosted 25 percent to $1.25 million and will headline a four-stakes program on Aug. 23 that includes the $500,000 King’s Bishop and $500,000 Ballerina – both Grade 1 races – as well as the Grade 2 Ballston Spa for fillies and mares on turf.

All totaled, Saratoga will offer 66 flat stakes – 33 of which are graded – plus two steeplechase stakes worth a total of $17.45 million during the 40-day meet, which runs from July 18 through Sept. 1.

While the Whitney had its purse increased, the Grade 1 Woodward, run under the same conditions as the Whitney on Aug. 30, had its purse slashed to $600,000 from $750,000. The Grade 2 Prioress, previously run as a prep for the Test, will now be run on the Woodward card along with the Grade 2 Bernard Baruch and Grade 1 Forego.

NYRA moved two traditional Grade 1 stakes run on Saturdays to Sundays. The Coaching Club American Oaks, for 3-year-old fillies, will be run on July 20. Its purse was increased to $300,000.

:: Full Saratoga stakes schedule

The Grade 1 Sword Dancer, which usually shares billing with the Grade 1 Alabama, will be run on Aug. 17, the day after the $600,000 Alabama. The purse of the Sword Dancer was cut from $600,000 to $500,000.

The Grade 1 Diana, typically run the second weekend of the meet, has been moved to opening weekend, Saturday, July 19, and had its purse cut from $600,000 to $500,000.The Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks was moved back a day to Sunday, July 20. Its purse was increased 50 percent to $300,000. The Grade 1 Personal Ensign, for older fillies and mares, was moved from the day after the Travers to the day before, Aug. 22, and was cut to $500,000 from $600,000.

Previously announced was the creation of Saratoga Showcase Day, on Aug. 24, featuring six stakes restricted to New York-breds including the $250,000 Albany Stakes.

Among stakes that received purse increases were the Grade 3 Saranac ($150,000 to $300,000), the Lake Placid ($200,000 to $300,000), and the Spinaway and Hopeful ($300,000 to $350,000).