The Metropolitan Handicap (gr. I) and four other graded stakes will be added to the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) card in 2014 for a June 7 Belmont Park race day that will offer 10 stakes and $8 million in total purses.
The card is expected to be the second-most lucrative in North America, behind only Breeders' Cup Saturday. In 2013, Belmont Stakes day included six stakes events worth $2.95 million.
"We've put together the finest day of racing in Belmont Stakes history," New York Racing Association president Chris Kay said Feb. 7. "We want every serious and casual fan in the area to come out on June 7 and experience the excitement and fun of one of New York's truly signature sporting events."
In previous years the success of Belmont Stakes day was closely tied to having a Triple Crown on the line. NYRA executives said they hope to create a day similar in feel to the Breeders' Cup World Championshps in which fans mark their calendars to be there regardless of whether there is a Triple Crown on the line.
"We wanted to create a day that would grab people's attention in classic, bigger-than-life New York style," Kay said. "We want to give people every reason to come out and be a part of the excitement."
Five traditional Belmont Stakes day contests—the $1.5 million Belmont Stakes (gr. I), the $1 million Manhattan (gr. IT), the $750,000 Longines Just a Game (gr. IT), the $500,000 Woody Stephens (gr. II), and the $150,000 Easy Goer—-will be back as part of the 2014 event.
Five stakes that were not contested on Belmont Stakes day in 2013 also will be part of the 2014 card. Topping the list is the $1.25 million Metropolitan Handicap (gr. I). Known as the Met Mile, the race for 3-year-olds and older at one mile on the main track is considered one of the most prestigious in North America.
Also new to the lineup are the $1 million Ogden Phipps (gr. I), the $750,000 Acorn (gr. I), the $500,000 Brooklyn Invitational (gr. II), and the $300,000 Jaipur Invitational (gr. IIIT). This year's renewal of the Brooklyn will include the "Brooklyn Bonus" whereby any horse that has won a graded stakes at 1 3/16 miles or longer will receive a bonus of $175,000 if he or she captures the Brooklyn.
The 13-race Belmont Stakes day card serves as the centerpiece of a new three-day "Belmont Stakes Festival" that will offer a wide array of special hospitality and entertainment options, NYRA officials said.
A price hike is expected for the Belmont Stakes day card. NYRA executives said prices would be in line with ticket prices for the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) day at Churchill Downs and Preakness Stakes (gr. I) day at Pimlico Race Course. They said those prices would be announced in March; the entertainment options also are scheduled to be announced at about that time.
The Metropolitan Handicap and the Ogden Phipps also serve as Breeders' Cup Challenge "Win and You're In" races offering the winners fees-paid starting berths to the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile (gr. I) and Breeders' Cup Distaff (gr. I), respectively.
"This is the premier day of racing at Belmont Park, anchored by the historic Belmont Stakes," said Martin Panza, NYRA''s senior vice president of racing operations. "I see June 7 as a summer time Breeders' Cup-type event. Fans and New York horsemen deserve a day like this."
Also scheduled as part of the 13-race Belmont Stakes day card are three overnight allowance events, two on dirt and one on turf, offering a total of $300,000 in purses.
NYRA said it is working with NBC and NBC Sports Network, which has the rights to the Belmont Stakes, on television plans for the big day of racing. NYRA executives said they are working to make attractive race cards on the days that will be losing top stakes to Belmont Stakes day.
Highlighting the card June 6 are the True North (gr. II) and a new race, the $200,000 Belmont Gold Cup Invitational to be run at two miles on the turf. On Sunday, Belmont will host another new race, the $100,000 Intercontinental, to be run at seven furlongs on turf.
Panza said NYRA hopes the Belmont Gold Cup attracts interest from European horsemen who could bring over additional horses for the weekend. He said NYRA will be working throughout the spring and summer to attract international starters.
One of the Friday stakes will replace the Brooklyn in a two-day daily double linked to the Belmont Stakes. Previously NYRA offered a double on the Brooklyn on Friday and the Belmont on Saturday.
The Brooklyn, Jaipur, and Belmont Gold Cup will all be invitational races with no nomination, entry, or starting fees. The True North, Manhattan, Ogden Phipps, and Brooklyn will have allowance weights in 2014 after having handicap weights in 2013.