Belmont Stakes Racing Festival, Travers highlight Belmont and Saratoga meets

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TwinSpires Staff

January 31st, 2016

Edited Press Release

Four of the biggest days in North American racing will anchor the 2016 Belmont Park spring/summer meet and the historic 148th meet at Saratoga Race Course.

Those four days comprise the $1.5 million Belmont S. (G1) on June 11, the centerpiece of the three-day Belmont Stakes Racing Festival (BSRF); Stars & Stripes Day set for July 9; and Whitney Day and Travers Day offering a pair of blockbuster, must-see cards on August 6 and August 27 at the Spa.

The highlight of the Belmont spring/summer meet, which opens on Friday, April 29, will be the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival, with 19 stakes worth nearly $10 million, featuring the "Test of the Champion."

The coveted final jewel of racing's Triple Crown, the 1 1/2-mile Belmont will be supported by eight additional graded stakes on Saturday including the $1 million Manhattan at 1 1/4 miles on the turf, the $1.25 million Metropolitan Handicap at a mile and the $1 million Ogden Phipps for fillies and mares going 1 1/16 miles. The $700,000 Just a Game for turf fillies and mares and the $700,000 Acorn for three-year-old fillies complete a quintet of prestigious Grade 1 races on the day.

Also on June 11 will be the $500,000 Woody Stephens (G2) for three-year-olds going seven furlongs; the $400,000 Brooklyn Invitational (G2) for four-year-olds and up going 1 1/2 miles; the $300,000 Jaipur Invitational (G3) for turf sprinters four-years-old and up; and the $150,000, 1 1/16-mile Easy Goer for sophomores.

With the Belmont Stakes Draw scheduled on Wednesday, June 8, at Rockefeller Center in Manhattan, the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival will kick off on June 9 with the $150,000 Intercontinental for turf fillies and mares going seven furlongs, the $200,000 Astoria for two-year-old fillies at 5 1/2 furlongs and the inaugural edition of the $200,000 Belmont Coronation Invitational for fillies and mares four-years-old and up going 1 15/16 miles on the turf.

The BSRF continues on Friday, June 10, with six more stakes, topped by the New York (G2) for turf fillies and mares at 1 1/4 miles, which boasts a purse increase to $500,000, and the $250,000 True North (G2) for older sprinters. Supporting the graded stakes are the $300,000 Belmont Gold Cup Invitational at two miles on the turf, the $150,000 Rags to Riches Invitational for older fillies and mares going 1 1/2 miles, the $200,000 Tremont for juveniles and the $150,000 Jersey Girl for three-year-old filly sprinters.

The second "must-see" event of the Belmont spring/summer meet will be the return of the popular Stars & Stripes Festival on Saturday, July 9. Launched in 2014, the internationally themed day will once again feature a pair of prestigious Grade 1 races on the turf for sophomores in the $1.25 million Belmont Derby and the $1 million Belmont Oaks for fillies, both at 1 1/4 miles.

Four additional graded stakes round out the superlative card, comprising the $400,000 Belmont Sprint Championship (G3),  $150,000 Victory Ride (G3) for three-year-old fillies going 6 1/2 furlongs, $500,000 Dwyer (G3) for sophomores at a mile and $500,000 Suburban Handicap (G2) at 1 1/4 miles.

"We continue to build out the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival and look forward to expanding the international aspect of Stars & Stripes Day, which continues to grow in popularity among our horsemen and our fans," said Martin Panza, NYRA Senior Vice President of Racing Operations.

The momentum continues into the 40-day Saratoga meet, which will offer 69 stakes – 37 of them graded – worth a record $18.725 million.

Gaining national prominence last year, not only for the appearance of Triple Crown champion American Pharoah in the "Mid-Summer Derby" but for its supercharged undercard, Travers Day on Saturday, August 27, will continue to build on its record-setting inauguration.

Again supporting the 147th running of the $1.25 million Travers (G1) will be five other Grade 1 stakes, including the $1 million Sword Dancer Invitational on the turf, $750,000 Personal Ensign for fillies and mares, $700,000 Forego at seven furlongs, $500,000 Ballerina for fillies and mares at seven furlongs, and the $500,000 King's Bishop for three-year-olds, also at seven furlongs.

Completing the day's stakes offerings will be the $400,000 Ballston Spa (G2) for turf fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles.

On August 6, the prestigious $1.25 million Whitney (G1) at 1 1/8 miles will be joined by the $500,000 Test (G1) at seven furlongs for sophomore fillies and $200,000 Waya (G3) for fillies and mares going 1 1/2 miles on the turf. Rounding out the day's stakes action will be a pair of $100,000 stakes in the Lure, at 1 1/16 miles on the turf and De La Rose for fillies and mares going a mile on the turf.

"The success and popularity last year of the enhanced Whitney Day and Travers Day cards speak for themselves," Panza said. "Every day at Saratoga is a special one but we anticipate that these two 'must-see' days will continue to strengthen and shine a national spotlight on the best race meet in the country."

The stakes offerings begin on Belmont Park's opening day, Friday, April 29, with the $100,000 Affirmed Success for New York-breds going six furlongs. Graded stakes action gets underway on Kentucky Derby Day, Saturday, May 7, with the $150,000 Westchester (G3) at a mile, $150,000 Fort Marcy (G3) for four-year-olds and up at 1 1/8 miles on the turf, and $200,000 Sheepshead Bay (G2) for older fillies and mares going 1 3/8 miles on the turf.

The first Grade 1 event of the meet is the $400,000 Man o' War at 1 3/8 miles on the turf, the highlight of a spectacular May 14 card that includes the $250,000 Ruffian Handicap (G2) at a mile for older fillies and mares, $200,000 Peter Pan (G2) for three-year-olds at 1 1/8 miles and $150,000 Beaugay (G3) for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles on the turf.

Memorial Day Monday, May 30, will again be the spring edition of New York Showcase Day for New York-breds, offering six stakes worth $900,000, highlighted by the $200,000 Commentator at a mile.

The $300,000 Mother Goose (G1) at 1 1/16 miles will be held on Saturday, July 2, and the meet will wrap up with the $125,000 Lynbrook for juvenile fillies on closing day, July 17.

Opening weekend at the Spa will feature the $150,000 Schuylerville (G3) for two-year-old fillies and $200,000 Lake George (G2) for three-year-old turf fillies on Friday, July 22, with the $500,000 Diana (G1) for turf fillies and mares and Sanford (G3) for two-year-olds the highlights of Saturday's card. Sunday will offer the second Grade 1 of the meet, the $300,000 Coaching Club American Oaks for sophomore fillies.

Grade 1 action continues on Saturday, July 30, with the $350,000 Alfred G. Vanderbilt anchoring a card that also features the traditional prep for the Travers, the $600,000 Jim Dandy (G2) for sophomores.

Saturday, August 13, is the $500,000 Fourstardave Handicap (G1) with the $600,000 Alabama (G1) a week later serving as the marquee event on Saturday, August 20.

The summer edition of New York Showcase Day on Friday, August 26, will serve as a preamble to Travers Day and the meet wraps with a bang on Labor Day weekend, with Saturday, September 3, featuring the $600,000 Woodward (G1), $350,000 Spinaway (G1) and a pair of Grade 3 turf races in the $300,000 Saranac for sophomores and $200,000 Glens Falls for turf fillies and mares.

Sunday's headline event is the $300,000 Prioress (G2) for three-year-old filly sprinters and the traditional closing day features will be the $350,000 Hopeful (G1) for juveniles and $250,000 Bernard Baruch Handicap (G2) on the turf.