"NYRA's participation in the newly-created Breeders' Cup Challenge is certain to gain regional and national interest in many of our premier races," said Bill Nader, NYRA senior vice-president and chief operating officer. "NYRA agreed to provide its support of an industry initiative to strengthen mainstream awareness of the Breeders' Cup World Championships by establishing blockbuster race days on the first Saturday at Saratoga and the final Sunday in September at Belmont Park."NYRA's biggest races will be run in their customary slots. Aqueduct will host the $750,000 Wood Memorial (gr. I) April 7 and the $300,000 Hill 'n' Dale Cigar Mile (gr. I) Nov. 24. The traditional local prep for the Wood Memorial, Aqueduct's $200,000 Gotham (gr. III), will be run March 10. The jewel of Belmont Park's spring/summer meet – the 139th running of the $1 million Belmont Stakes (gr. I) – will be run June 9. The Belmont heads yet another gigantic race day that will also include the Manhattan Handicap (gr. IT), the Acorn (gr. I), and three grade II races: the Woody Stephens Breeders' Cup, the Just A Game Handicap, and the True North Handicap.Belmont Park's Fall Championship meet will feature the $750,000 Jockey Club Gold Cup Invitational (gr. I) Sept. 30, which will be run as an invitational for the first time.
At Saratoga, the 138th running of the $1 million Travers, presented by New York Lottery (gr. I), will be run Aug.25. The $500,000 Woodward (gr. I) was moved from Belmont Park to Saratoga last year and will return to the Spa Sept. 1.As for changes, NYRA has added a new race for Belmont Park's Fall Championship meet. The $100,000-added Xtra Heat Handicap for fillies and mares at six furlongs on the turf will be run Oct.14. And, because of the proximity of the Breeders' Cup, New York Showcase Day will be run Oct. 20. To accommodate the Breeders' Cup Challenge, Saratoga's Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap was moved from its usual spot on the second weekend of the meet to the meet's first Saturday.
The Matron for 2-year-old fillies at seven furlongs Sept. 15 at Belmont Park is now a grade II race. Also downgraded were Aqueduct's Long Island Handicap for fillies and mares at a 1 1/2 miles on the turf Nov. 3, which goes from a grade II to a grade III, and Belmont Park's Lexington for 3-year-olds at nine furlongs on the turf July 8, which is no longer a graded stakes race. Additionally, NYRA has eliminated the Genuine Risk Breeders' Cup and Floral Park handicaps, a pair of six-furlong sprints for fillies and mares.