More than two months since the New York Racing Association staged its last slate of races, horsemen and fans finally have a date to circle on their calendars.
NYRA has announced the spring/summer meet at Belmont Park will begin without fans June 3, bringing live racing back to the state for the first time since March 15.
"It's most definitely a huge relief, especially since during the last two or three weeks people were at wit's end and there was a lot of stress. So now that everything is set, we can start getting some money out there for the horsemen," said Martin Panza, NYRA's senior vice president of racing operations.
According to a May 19 press release, Belmont Park will be open for five days of racing during that initial week (Wednesday through Sunday) with a 1:15 p.m. first race post time before shifting to a four-day, Thursday-through-Sunday schedule for the remainder of the meet, which ends July 12.
"The resumption of live racing at Belmont Park on June 3, with all appropriate health and safety protocols in place, will support the hundreds of small businesses, family-owned farms and thousands of hourly workers who form the backbone of thoroughbred racing in New York," NYRA president & CEO Dave O'Rourke said. "The return of live sports, especially New York institutions like the Belmont Stakes, is a welcome sign of progress that will bring some sense of normalcy back to our everyday lives."
With all of the particulars of the meet in place, NYRA can now go about the business of welcoming back horsemen who stayed longer than usual in Florida or moved to Kentucky on a temporary basis and preparing for racing under new safety protocols due to the pandemic.
"The condition book is out and people have a couple of weeks to put workouts into their horses and the Florida guys are in the process of moving up here. It does give us some leeway to get things teed up," Panza said. "If their homes are in New York, I am sure they want to see New York racing prosper. If a horse or two made its way to Churchill Downs, that's understandable. Owners need to run their horses. For us it's a sense of getting back to normalcy. If a horse ran at Churchill last weekend or this weekend, will it make its way back to New York. Sure. The important thing is we're open again. "
After announcing a June 20 date for the $1 million Belmont Stakes (G1) earlier in the day, NYRA revealed the remainder of its 40-stakes worth $7 million schedule for a meet shortened to 25 days due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The schedule, which features at least one stakes every day of the meet, includes nine grade 1 stakes that will be spaced out among the meet's six weekends.
While there were eight grade 1 stakes on last year's Belmont Stakes card, the 152nd edition of the Triple Crown stakes will be supported by three other grade 1 stakes on the June 20 card. That trio features the $300,000 Acorn Stakes Presented by America's Best Racing for 3-year-old fillies at a mile, the $250,000 Jaipur Stakes, a six-furlong turf sprint, and the $250,000 Woody Stephens Presented by Claiborne Farm for 3-year-olds at seven furlongs.
Also on that card are two $150,000 turf stakes for 3-year-olds, the Pennine Ridge Stakes (G2T) for colts and the Wonder Again Stakes (G3T) for fillies.
Noticeably absent from the schedule are the opening legs of NYRA's Turf Triple Crown series for 3-year-old males, the $1 million Belmont Derby Invitational Stakes (G1T) and the $750,000 Belmont Oaks Invitational Stakes (G1T), which were originally scheduled for July 11. Panza said the Turf Triple stakes will be run later in the year at a yet to be determined dates.
NYRA also released the first condition book for the meet Tuesday.
The schedule also includes six stakes restricted to New York State-breds, each on a different day, after 11 state-bred or stallion series races were originally planned.
One key addition is the June 6 date for the $250,000 Runhappy Carter Handicap (G1), a seven-furlong sprint, which was on the canceled April 4 card at Aqueduct Racetrack.
The July 4 card will include five graded stakes: the $500,000 Runhappy Metropolitan Handicap (G1) at a mile, the $400,000 Manhattan Stakes (G1T) at 1 1/4 miles on turf, the $200,000 Suburban Stakes (G2), the $150,000 Poker Stakes (G3T) and the $100,000 Victory Ride Stakes (G3).
The other grade 1 stakes during the meet will be the June 13 $300,000 Ogden Phipps Stakes at 1 1/16 miles for fillies and mares and the June 27 $300,000 Longines Just A Game for fillies and mares at one mile on turf.
The opening day June 3 card will feature the $100,000 Beaugay Stakes (G3T) at 1 1/16 miles on turf for fillies and mares.
In addition to the 22 graded stakes,10 $80,000 overnight stakes races along with eight stakes restricted to New York-bred horses worth a combined $800,000 will be offered during the meet
NYRA was forced to cut purses for the meet due to the closing of the state's casinos and the absence of VLT funds as well as a lack of on-track wagering and attendance.
"Without the casino operating and without on-track attendance, we've had to make significant purse cuts. The purse cuts to the stakes schedule are much more dramatic than the overnight schedule and we've tried to help the everyday horsemen as much as possible through these trying times by writing a rich and varied condition book, offering a daily opportunity for black type, that will support horsemen at all levels of the game," Panza said.
Belmont Park was originally scheduled to open April 24, and the loss of those racing dates also resulted in stakes such as the $300,000 Peter Pan Stakes (G3), $700,000 Man o'War Stakes (G1T), $500,000 Belmont Gold Cup (G2T), $500,000 Brooklyn Stakes (G2), $300,000 John A. Nerud Stakes (G2T) and Dwyer Stakes (G3) being dropped from the spring/summer meet schedule.
There will also be no stakes for 2-year-olds with the loss of the Lasix-free $150,000 Tremont Stakes for colts and $150,000 Astoria Stakes for fillies. Both stakes were originally linked to maiden races at the start of the meet worth $100,000. Maiden races for 2-year-olds at the meet will now carry a purse of $64,000.
NYRA also announced fans who purchased tickets for the Belmont Stakes and the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival will receive full refunds. More information is available at www.belmontstakes.com. Fans who purchased tickets through Ticketmaster will receive an email with instructions on how to obtain a refund or credit.
2020 Belmont Spring/Summer Stakes Schedule
|June 3||Beaugay||3T||$100,000||F&M 4&Up||1 1/16 Miles|
|June 4||Tiller||—||$80,000||4&Up||1 3/8 Miles (Turf)|
|June 5||Harmony Lodge||—||$80,000||F&M 4&Up||6 Furlongs|
|June 6||Runhappy Carter Handicap||1||$250,000||3&Up||7 Furlongs|
|June 6||Fort Marcy||2T||$150,000||4&Up||1 1/8 Miles|
|June 6||Westchester||3||$100,000||4&Up||1 1/16 Miles|
|June 6||Intercontinental||3||$100,000||F&M 4&Up||7 Furlongs (Turf)|
|June 7||First Defense||—||$80,000||4&Up||7 Furlongs (Turf)|
|June 11||Flat Out||—||$80,000||4&Up||1 3/8 Miles|
|June 12||Commentator Handicap (NYB)||—||$125,000||3&Up||1 Mile|
|June 13||Ogden Phipps (BC)||1||$300,000||F&M 4&Up||1 1/16 Miles|
|June 14||Mike Lee (NYB)||—||$100,000||3YO||7 Furlongs|
|June 18||Critical Eye Handicap (NYB)||—||$125,000||F&M 3&Up||1 Mile|
|June 19||Sir Cat||—||$80,000||3YO||6 Furlongs (Turf)|
|June 20||Belmont Stakes||1||$1,000,000||3YO||1 1/8 Miles|
|June 20||Acorn||1||$300,000||F 3YO||1 Mile|
|June 20||Jaipur (BC)||1T||$250,000||3&Up||6 Furlongs|
|June 20||Woody Stephens||1||$250,000||3YO||7 Furlongs|
|June 20||Pennine Ridge||2T||$150,000||3YO||1 Mile|
|June 20||Wonder Again||3T||$150,000||F 3YO||1 Mile|
|June 21||Lady Shipman||—||$80,000||F 3YO||6 Furlongs (Turf)|
|June 25||Easy Goer||—||$80,000||3YO||1 1/16 Miles|
|June 26||Hessonite (NYB)||—||$75,000||F&M 4&Up||6 Furlongs (Turf)|
|June 27||Longines Just A Game||1T||$300,000||F&M 4&Up||1 Mile|
|June 27||New York||2T||$250,000||F&M 4&Up||1 1/4 Miles|
|June 27||True North||2||$150,000||4&Up||6 1/2 Furlongs|
|June 27||Vagrancy Handicap||3||$100,000||F&M 3&Up||6 1/2 Furlongs|
|June 28||Bouwerie (NYB)||—||$100,000||F 3YO||7 Furlongs|
|July 2||Mount Vernon (NYB)||—||$100,000||F&M 4&Up||1 Mile (Turf)|
|July 3||License Fee||—||$80,000||F&M 4&Up||6 Furlongs (Turf)|
|July 4||Runhappy Metropolitan (BC)||1||$500,000||3&Up||1 Mile|
|July 4||Manhattan||1T||$400,000||4&Up||1 1/4 Miles|
|July 4||Suburban||2||$200,000||4&Up||1 1/4 Miles|
|July 4||Poker||3T||$150,000||4&Up||1 Mile|
|July 4||Victory Ride||3||$100,000||F 3YO||6 1/2 Furlongs|
|July 5||Kingston (NYB)||—||$100,000||4&Up||1 1/16 Miles (Turf)|
|July 9||Banrock (NYB)||—||$75,000||4&Up||6 Furlongs (Turf)|
|July 10||Gold Fever||—||$80,000||3YO||6 Furlongs|
|July 11||Ruffian||2||$150,000||F&M 4&Up||1 Mile|
|July 11||River Memories||—||$80,000||F&M 4&Up||1 1/2 Miles|