Saratoga Purses Could Hit Record Level

New York Racing Association officials have put in place purse increases for the Saratoga racing season that are expected to push the purses to record levels, surpassing an average $600,000 per day.

Beginning with the opening day of the 134th Saratoga season on Wednesday, July 24, purses for open maiden and allowance races will increase by $2,000 each. Maiden sprint races will climb to $45,000 and maiden route races will be worth $46,000.

Maiden purses were also increased when racing shifted from Aqueduct to Belmont Park in early May.

"Saratoga is clearly the premier race meet in America, probably in the world," said NYRA chairman and CEO Barry K. Schwartz, "so we're going to actually go to a third tier in purse structure, whereby our better races at Saratoga will be raised once again, only for the six-week meet.

"It will be the highest purse structure in our history."

During NYRA's annual pre-Saratoga press conference in Albany, N.Y. Monday, senior vice president Bill Nader announced that the association will offer a guaranteed $1 million Pick 4 pool on Travers Day, Aug. 24. On the other five Saturdaysof the 36-day meeting, NYRA will gauranteed $500,000 Pick 4 pools.

Racing secretary Mike Lakow said that he has received more than 4,000 applications for the 1,650 stalls at Saratoga. Among the horsemen who have been given stalls of the grounds for the first time this summer, are Bob Hess Jr., and Eion Harty, who handles the Godolphin Racing's 2-year-old division in America.

Veteran trainer Phil Gleaves is returning to Saratoga and Lakow said that Patrick Biancone will have a larger stable. Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel, who had a record of 10-2-2 from 21 starters last season, will have twice as many stalls, the maximum of 30.

Nader said that a goal this season is to reach $16 million in daily average total handle. During last year's record-breaking meeting, which drew more than one million people, the daily average total handle was $15.6 million.

Though the Travers has long been the marquee event at Saratoga, the Whitney Handicap on Aug. 3 could have the deepest and most talented field. Lakow said that handicap horses likely to run in the Whitney are Street Cry, recent winner of the Stephen Foster at Churchill Downs; Massachusetts handicap winner Macho Uno; Brooklyn winner Seeking Daylight and last year's Whitney winner, Lido Palace.