NYRA Slashes Stakes Purses $4 Million for 2006; Woodward Moved to Saratoga

The New York Racing Association, which has said it might have to file for bankruptcy, today announced a reduction in stakes purses for 2006 of about $4 million. In addition, the $500,000 Woodward Stakes (gr. I), one of the mainstays of Belmont Park's fall meet, will be run at Saratoga Race Course next year.

The stakes schedule was approved Dec. 7 at the monthly meeting of NYRA's board of trustees. Pending approval by the New York State Racing and Wagering Board, the changes will have a dramatic impact on New York racing in the coming year.

NYRA senior vice president Bill Nader said much of the nearly $4 million will be "added back in overnight stakes that will be announced from condition book to condition book."

In addition, nine stakes were eliminated.

Among the cuts in grade I stakes, The Jockey Club Gold Cup purse was reduced from $1 million to $750,000, and the Beldame, Flower Bowl, Joe Hirsch Turf Classic, and Met Mile were all cut from $750,000 to $600,000. The Coaching Club American Oaks saw its purse reduced to $300,000 from $500,000.

Four stakes, the victory Ride, Gotham, Woody Stephens (formerly the Riva Ridge), and National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame, had their purses increased $50,000 each.

The eliminated stakes are the Astarita, Valley Stream, Cowdin, Huntington, Lawrence Realization, Saratoga Breeders' Cup, Belmont Breeders' Cup, and Meadowbrook Steeplechase.

The nine-furlong Woodward was moved to Sept. 2 in an effort to spread out the more important handicap races, which were becoming too congested on the schedule, according to a NYRA release.

Additionally, the Brooklyn Handicap (gr. II), formerly run in June, will now become the $150,000 Brooklyn Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. II) and be run Sept. 16.

After two years of experimentation, Saratoga will again offer three stakes races for juvenile colts and fillies. The Schuylerville, which was not run last year, returns to its spot as the opening day feature at Saratoga July 26, with the Adirondack Aug.16 and the Spinaway, which regained grade I status, Sept. 3.

The Sanford, which was not run last year, returns July 27, kicking off the three-race series for 2-year-olds that also includes the Saratoga Special Aug. 17 and the Hopeful (gr. I), which has been moved back to closing day, Sept. 4.

"We placed four grade I stakes on Labor Day weekend at Saratoga and made a bold decision in moving the Woodward to the final Saturday of America's most popular racetrack," said Nader.

"There are a lot of changes on this schedule, including some purse reductions or eliminations of stakes, but we made sure that NYRA's commitment to excellence remains intact," Nader said. "The overall dollar reduction in stakes is nearly $4 million, but much of that money will be added back in overnight stakes that will be announced from condition book to condition book. This helps NYRA strike a better balance with dollars allocated to stakes and overnight races, and be more responsive to the available horse inventory from meet to meet," he said.

"Looking forward, we will continue our unified efforts with horsemen and breeders to seek final Aqueduct VLT (video lottery terminal) approval from Albany. We would like to be open by December next year and then increase purses by 35-40% in 2007."

On Belmont Stakes day, June 10, 2006, the seven-furlong Riva Ridge Stakes (gr. II) for 3-year-olds will be renamed the Woody Stephens Breeders' Cup (gr. II). Named for the late Hall of Fame trainer who remains the only person to win five straight Belmont Stakes (gr. I), the Woody Stephens Breeders' Cup received a $100,000 purse increase to $250,000.

2006 NYRA Stakes Schedule Highlights

Changes: Woodward (moved to Saratoga); Spinaway (regains grade I status); Schuylerville (not run last year, back at Saratoga); Sanford (not run last year, back at Saratoga); Hopeful (moved to Labor Day at Saratoga); Cicada (formerly at seven furlongs, now six furlongs); NY Stallion Stakes, Cupecoy's Joy Division (new stakes); NY Stallion Stakes, Statue of Liberty Division ($100,000 purse reduction, switched to turf; Gotham (now at a mile and a sixteenth on Aqueduct's inner dirt track); NY Stallion Stakes (now at seven furlongs); Peter Pan (now three weeks from Belmont Stakes); New York Stallion Stakes, Spectacular Bid (new stakes); Hill Prince (now eight furlongs, turf); Lexington (now 10 furlongs, turf); Amsterdam (now 6 1/2 furlongs); NY Stallion Stakes Cab Calloway Division (now on the turf); Discovery Handicap (now at nine furlongs); Distaff Breeders' Cup (now six furlongs); Bed o' Roses Handicap (now at seven furlongs); Just a Game (no longer Breeders' Cup race); Genuine Risk (formerly run in May); Ballston Spa (no longer a Breeders' Cup race); NY Stallion Stakes, Perfect Arc Division (now run at 1 1/16 miles); Toboggan Handicap (now six furlongs); Jaipur (now six furlongs, turf); True North (no longer a Breeders' Cup race); Fourstardave (switches positions with Bernard Baruch); Troy Handicap (now at six furlongs, turf); Bernard Baruch (now on Travers Day); Brooklyn Handicap (now a Breeders' Cup race and moved to September); Knickerbocker Handicap (now a Breeders' Cup race); and NY Stallion Stakes, Cormorant Division (now at 1 1/16 miles on the turf).

Purse Increases (and the amount of increases): Victory Ride ($25,000); Gotham ($50,000); Woody Stephens Breeders' Cup (formerly Riva Ridge; $50,000); National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fames Stakes Breeders' Cup ($50,000).

Purse Reductions (and the amount of reductions): Spinaway ($50,000); Matron ($50,000); Frizette ($100,000); NY Stallion Series, Fifth Avenue Division ($25,000); East View ($10,000); Futurity ($50,000); Champagne ($100,000); NY Stallion, Great White Way Division ($25,000); Damon Runyon ($10,000); Ruthless ($10,000); Busanda ($10,000); Dearly Precious ($10,000); Busher ($10,000); NY Stallion, Park Avenue ($50,000); Coaching Club American Oaks ($200,000); Alabama ($150,000); Garden City Breeders' Cup ($50,000); Count Fleet ($10,000); Jimmy Winfield ($10,000); Whirlaway ($10,000); Fred "Cappy" Capossella ($10,000); NY Stallion Stakes, Times Square Division ($50,000); NY Stallion Stakes, Cab Calloway Division ($100,000); Discovery Handicap ($150,000); Interborough Handicap ($10,000); Affectionately ($10,000); Correction ($10,000); Rare Treat ($10,000); Broadway ($10,000); Shuvee ($50,000); Beldame ($150,000); Flower Bowl Invitational ($150,000); New York Stallion Stakes, Perfect Arc Division ($25,000); Montauk ($10,000); Garland of Roses ($10,000); Ladies Handicap ($10,000); Paumonok ($10,000); Hollie Hughes ($10,000); Stymie ($10,000); Carter Handicap ($50,000); Kings Point ($10,000); Metropolitan Handicap ($150,000); Suburban Handicap ($100,000); Vosburgh ($100,000); Jockey Club Gold Cup ($250,000); Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational ($150,000); NY Stallion Stakes, Cormorant Division ($25,000); Hill 'n' Dale Cigar Mile ($50,000); Gallant Fox ($10,000); Alex M. Robb ($10,000).

Eliminated: Astarita, Valley Stream, Flash, Cowdin, Huntington, Lawrence Realization, Saratoga Breeders' Cup, Belmont Breeders' Cup and Meadowbrook Steeplechase.