NYRA Releases 2003 Stakes Slate

The New York Racing Association's Board of Trustees today approved an innovative stakes schedule for 2003 that will offer 180 stakes and $36.275 million in stakes money available at Aqueduct, Belmont Park and Saratoga Race Course. Of the NYRA stakes scheduled for 2003, 125 are graded stakes and 41 of these are Grade 1 races.

Included in the 2003 stakes schedule are two races - Belmont's Suburban
Handicap and Saratoga's Diana Handicap - that have been upgraded to Grade 1 status; a new $2 million bonus for any three-year-old filly that can sweep the "new" Triple Tiara: the Mother Goose and Coaching Club American Oaks at Belmont Park, as well as Saratoga's Grade 1 Alabama; and a pair of new $250,000 races that are part of the New York Stallion Series. Additionally, NYRA has increased the purses of several races, including the Mother Goose (from $250,000 to $300,000), the Coaching Club American Oaks (from $350,000 to $500,000) and Grade 1 Vosburgh (from $300,000 to $500,000), which was also cut back in distance from seven furlongs to six and a half furlongs. The Vosburgh will be run during Belmont Park's Fall Championship Meet on Saturday, September 27 as part of Jockey Club Gold Cup Day.
In years past, New York's Triple Tiara for three-year-old fillies consisted of three Grade 1 races at Belmont Park -- the one-mile Acorn, the nine-furlong Mother Goose and the 1*-mile Coaching Club American Oaks - but without additional bonus money. Only Dark Mirage (1968), Shuvee (1969), Chris Evert (1974), Ruffian (1975), Davona Dale (1979), Mom's Command (1985), Open Mind (1989) and Sky Beauty (1993) managed to sweep all three races.
In 2003, Saratoga's 1*-mile Alabama replaces the Acorn and the $2 million bonus figures to generate more excitement for the division.
"In order to be competitive in this industry and to offer the highest
caliber of Thoroughbred racing, we not only have to have the purse money to attract the best horses but we have to be creative, open-minded and fair in sparking interest in each division," said NYRA Racing Secretary/Handicapper Mike Lakow. "The new bonus for the three-year-old fillies illustrates that point. It is a division that often gets overshadowed by the three-year-old colts and the Triple Crown, yet the three-year-old fillies have continued to generate some of the better races every year. Winning either the Mother Goose, CCA Oaks or the Alabama is a significant accomplishment for any young filly. Winning all three is a monumental achievement and worthy of a $2 million bonus."

Only four horses have won all three of the new Triple Tiara races: Shuvee, Mom's Command, Open Mind and Sky Beauty. The nine-furlong Mother Goose will be run on Saturday, June 28, 2003 and will be televised live nationally by CBS. The CCA Oaks, the 1*-mile filly counterpart to the Belmont Stakes, will be run on Saturday, July 19. The $750,000 Alabama at a mile and a quarter completes the series at Saratoga on Saturday, August 16, and will be televised by ESPN.
The Suburban and the Diana, formerly Grade 2 events, are two of
three races given Grade 1 status for 2003 by the Graded Stakes Committee, which met in Lexington, Ky. in late November. Of the 101 Grade 1 races slated for 2003, NYRA will host 41 of them -- two at the Aqueduct Spring Meet; 10 at the Belmont Spring/Summer Meet; 14 at Saratoga; 14 at Belmont's Fall Championship Meet and one at the Aqueduct Fall Meet. "As for the Grade 1 upgrades, I think that reflects on the work of (NYRA Racing Secretary) Mike Lakow and (Stakes Coordinator) Andrew Byrnes over the years in working to bring in top horses to our important, historic races," said NYRA President and COO Terry Meyocks.
The 1 *-mile Suburban Handicap, for three-year-olds and up, was first run at Sheepshead Bay in 1884. It was a Grade 1 race, but was downgraded to Grade 2 after its running in 1996. But in 1997, its winner was Skip Away, and in successive years, victors Frisk Me Now, Behrens, Lemon Drop Kid, Albert the Great and 2002's winner, E Dubai helped restore its Grade 1 status.
The nine-furlong Diana, for fillies and mares on the turf, was
previously run at the end of the Saratoga meet but was moved to the Spa's first weekend in 2002. Tates Creek won the 2002 Diana in a head bob over Voodoo Dancer. In recent years, Diana victors have included Memories of Silver (1998), Heritage of Gold (1999), Perfect Sting (2000) and Starine (2001).
The New York Stallion Series continues its growth, with the increase
of purses from $100,000 to $150,000 for the Times Square Division for
three-year-olds at a mile and the Park Avenue Division for three-year-old fillies at a mile at Aqueduct on Sunday April 27. On June 8 at Belmont, the Series continues with two new races: the $250,000 Cab Calloway Division for three-year-olds at a mile and a sixteenth and the $250,000 Statue of Liberty Division for three-year-old fillies at a mile and a sixteenth.
Those races will also be of greater significance later in the year
on New York Showcase Day at Belmont Park on Saturday, October 18.
"We have always felt that the New York Breeding and Racing Program was a key to our industry's growth and the increase in purses for divisions of the New York Stallion Series should further its development," Lakow said. Cutting back the Vosburgh to six and a half furlongs should make it a more desirable prep for the six-furlong Breeders' Cup Sprint, part of the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships at Santa Anita on Saturday, October 25. In fact, all of the races at Belmont Park on September 27 will be key preps for the respective Breeders' Cup races.