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May 02, 2014

AMERICAN TURF CLUB LEAD-BELMONT OPENING

By: JOE GIRARDI


                              The start of the Belmont meeting is officially the sign of Spring for many horseplayers as the racing moves to beautiful Belmont Park. They opened their doors for the spring/summer meeting on Thursday May 1st and it runs through July 13th. There are some changes this meeting especially in the form of the Stakes Schedule.

               Opening day’s stakes race was the Elusive Quality Stakes, a race for four year olds and upward run over seven furlongs on the turf, however, the heavy rains throughout the week caused that race to come off the turf. The first Graded Stakes gets underway on Saturday May 3rd with the Grade III Beaugay for fillies and mares four years old and upward run over 1 and 1/16th miles over the turf course with a purse of $150,000. The Grade III Fort Marcy will also be run that day, a race for four year olds and upward run over 1 and 1/8th miles also run over the turf with a purse of $150,000.

               The Grade II Peter Pan, a race for three year olds run over 1 and 1/8th miles with a purse of $200,000 will be run on Saturday May 10th. This race is usually used as a prep race for the Belmont Stakes race and can get some of the up and coming three year olds who didn’t make the Derby or Preakness. The following day, Mother’s Day will have four stakes races, three of them graded. The Grade III Westchester, a race for four year olds and upward will be run over one mile with a purse of $150,000 and can be used as a prep race for the Metropolitan Mile which was moved from Memorial Day to Belmont Stakes day. The Grade II Ruffian, a race for four year olds and upward run over one mile and that race carries a purse of $250,000. The final graded stakes that day comes in the form of the Grade I Man O’ War, a race for four year olds and upward run over 1 and 3/8ths miles over the turf with a purse of $400,000.

               Moving on to the Memorial Day card, it loses the Met Mile which had been a staple for many years. There are three stakes races that day, only one graded and that comes in the form of the Grade III Poker stakes, for four year olds and upward, run at one mile over the turf with a purse of $300,000.

               On June 6th, the day before the Belmont Stakes, the Grade II True North will be run as well as the Belmont Gold Cup Invitational, a race run over two miles on the turf for four year olds an upward with a $200,000 purse.

               On Saturday June 7th, the biggest day of the meeting with 10 stakes races and nine of the graded with almost eight million dollars in purses. The Grade III Jaipur Invitational is for four year olds and upward, run over the turf at six furlongs with a purse of $300,000. The Grade III Brooklyn Handicap, run over 1 and ½ miles for four year olds and upward with a purse of $500,000. The Grade II Woody Stephens, a race for three year olds, will be run over seven furlongs and carry a purse of $500,000. Then there will be six Grade I races, they are as follows. The Manhattan, a race for four year olds and upward run over 1 and ¼ miles and it carries a purse of $1 million dollars. The Acorn Stakes, a race for three year old fillies will be run over one mile and will carry a purse of $750,000. The Just a Game stakes, is for fillies and mares, four year olds and upward run over one mile on the turf with a purse of $750,000. The Ogden Phipps stakes for fillies and mares, four year olds and upward run over 1 and 1/16th miles with a purse of $1 million dollars. The Metropolitan Mile, which was a staple on Memorial Day was moved to Belmont Stakes day, it is a race for three year olds and upward run over one mile with a purse of $1.25 million dollars. This race always attracts some of the best horses in the country, sprinters and handicap horses alike, a top three year old that didn’t make the Triple Crown trail could try a race like this as well. The Belmont Stakes is the highlight of this day and of the entire meeting. The “Test of Champions” and the final leg of the Triple Crown. It is a race for three year olds run over 1 and ½ miles and it will carry a purse of $1.5 million dollars this year.

               There are three more Grade I races after the Belmont. The Grade I Mother Goose Stakes, a race for three year old fillies run over 1 and 1/16th miles with a purse of $300,000. There are two more Grade I races left, newly created races both run on July 5th. The Belmont Oaks Invitational, a race for three year old fillies, run over the turf at 1 and ¼ miles and carrying a purse of $1 million dollars. The Belmont Derby Invitational, a race for three year olds, run over the turf at 1 and ¼ miles and that race will carry a purse of $1.25 million dollars.

               There are definitely a few days of some exciting racing but we will have to see how this new format plays out. It might have been better to spread these races over multiple days instead of putting them all in one day.

               For more information please go to www.nyra.com as there are many other events that will be taking place throughout the meeting.



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