The name of the $750,000, 1 1/2 mile Turf Classic, to be run at Belmont Park on Oct. 2, 2004, has been changed to the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational, it was announced Thursday by Barry K. Schwartz, chairman and CEO of the New York Racing Association. Hirsch recently retired from his position as the executive columnist for the Daily Racing Form.The grade I event is traditionally New York's top event for 3-year-olds and up on the turf."The Turf Classic is a race that year after year draws top competitors from both the U.S. and Europe," said Schwartz. "Since Joe has always been a champion of international racing, we thought it was appropriate to name our own championship turf event in his honor. Throughout his distinguished career, Joe has been a great supporter of Thoroughbred racing in general and New York racing in particular. NYRA and its board of trustees wanted to show its appreciation for all his efforts. It is a grade I race for a grade I guy."In addition to the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic, other major races scheduled that day, the highlight of Belmont's fall meet, are the $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup, the $750,000 Flower Bowl Invitational and the $500,000 Vosburgh, all grade I. Past champions that have captured the Turf Classic include Johnny D., Waya, Bowl Game, April Run, All Along, John Henry, Manila, Theatrical, Sunshine Forever, Sky Classic, and Buck's Boy. The 2003 winner was regarded Sulamani.Long considered racing's "ambassador of good will," Hirsch is respected for his knowledge, his dedication and his generosity in helping other members of his profession."I'm overwhelmed by this honor," said the 75-year-old Hirsch. "I'm deeply grateful to the trustees of the New York Racing Association for doing this. The Turf Classic was founded by "Dinny" Phipps when he was chairman of the New York Racing Association as a race that would be comparable to the Arc d'Triomphe. It is one of America's great, international races and I am very proud to be associated with it."
More on NYRA 2004 Stakes Schedule