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The New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA) today announced race dates for the 27-day Belmont fall meet, including 38 stakes worth $5.58 million in purse money, that will kick off on Friday, September 18 and run through Sunday, November 1.
Following opening weekend at Belmont, live racing will be conducted Thursday through Sunday with the exception of Columbus Day weekend, when live racing will be offered on Monday, October 12 and return on Friday, October 16.
The Belmont Park fall meet has traditionally opened on the Friday following Labor Day. Due to the continued impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, NYRA adjusted the fall schedule by adding a one-week break following the conclusion of the summer meet at Saratoga Race Course.
"This new fall schedule is the result of a collaborative effort between NYRA, the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association and the New York Thoroughbred Breeders to modify our racing calendar in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and its effect on the industry," said NYRA President and CEO Dave O'Rourke. "I'd like to thank the horsemen and breeders for their common-sense approach to solving the challenges brought about by this unprecedented public health crisis."
The fall meet at Belmont Park will be highlighted by 22 graded stakes, featuring seven Grade 1 events and seven Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In" qualifiers to the two-day Breeders' Cup 2020 World Championships to be held November 6-7 at Keeneland Race Course.
Stakes action will commence Opening Day with the $80,000 Miner's Mark at 1 1/2-miles on Big Sandy for 3-year-olds and up leading into the first of the meet's Grade 1 events the following day with the $250,000 Belmont Oaks Invitational, the second leg of the Turf Triple series for 3-year-old fillies in a 1 ¼-mile turf test on Saturday, September 19.
The following Saturday will be highlighted by the Grade 2, $150,000 Vosburgh, a six-furlong sprint for 3-year-olds and up offering a berth in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Sprint. The September 26 card is bolstered by the Grade 3, $100,000 Noble Damsel at one-mile on the turf for fillies and mares 3-years-old and up.
The Thursday, October 1 card offers the $100,000 Joseph A. Gimma, a seven-furlong sprint for juvenile fillies as the first of 10 stakes races restricted to New York-breds at the meet. It's counterpart, the $100,000 Bertram F. Bongard also at seven furlongs on the main track will be held October 2.
Five graded races will highlight the Saturday, October 3 card, led by the Grade 1, $250,000 Belmont Derby Invitational, second leg of the Turf Triple series for males, a 10-furlong turf test offering a berth in the Breeders' Cup Turf. The card is bolstered by the Grade 1, $250,000 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic at 12 furlongs on the turf for 3-year-olds and up; the Grade 2, $150,000 Gallant Bloom Handicap at 6 ½-furlongs for fillies and mares, 3-years-old and up; the Grade 2, $150,000 Kelso Handicap, a one-turn mile for 3-years-old and up; and the Grade 2, $150,000 Pilgrim for 2-year-ols at 1 1/16-miles on the turf.
The following day will showcase an additional three graded events on October 4 led by the Grade 2, $150,000 Beldame at nine furlongs for fillies and mares 3-years-old and up; The Grade 2, $150,000 Miss Grillo for juvenile fillies; and the Grade 3, $100,000 Belmont Turf Sprint Invitational at six furlongs for 3-year-olds and up.
Columbus Day Weekend beginning Saturday, October 10 and ending on Monday, October 12, will feature nine graded events worth $1.65 million, including four Grade 1 Breeders' Cup "Win & You're In" challenge races on Saturday led by the $250,000 Jockey Club Gold Cup, a 1 ¼-mile test offering a berth in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Classic.
The Saturday, October 10, card is bolstered by the Grade 1, $250,000 Champagne, won last year by Belmont Stakes and Runhappy Travers hero Tiz the Law, at one-mile for 2-year-olds providing a spot in the starting gate for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. A loaded card also includes the Grade 1, $250,000 Flower Bowl at 10-furlongs for fillies and mares 3-years-old and up with a berth in the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf on the line; the Grade 1, $250,000 Frizette, a one-turn mile for juvenile fillies offering a berth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies; and the Grade 2, $150,000 Sands Point for sophomore fillies at one mile on the turf.
Sunday, October 11 will feature the Grade 3, $100,000 Futurity, a six-furlong turf sprint offering a berth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint; and the Grade 3, $100,000 Matron for juvenile filly turf sprinters.
The Grade 2, $150,000 Hill Prince for sophomore turf milers and the Grade 2, $150,000 Knickerbocker, a nine-furlong turf test for 3-year-olds and up on Columbus Day Monday will close out the lucrative weekend.
The spotlight will focus on the Empire State on Saturday, October 24 when the best New York-breds gather at Belmont Park for Empire Showcase Day. An annual celebration of all things New York, the Empire Showcase Day card will offer eight stakes worth $1.2 million topped by the $175,000 Empire Classic at 1 1/8 miles.
Closing weekend will feature five stakes combined from October 31 - November 1, led by the Grade 3, $100,000 Bold Ruler Handicap on Saturday. Sunday's Closing Day will offer the $80,000 Pumpkin Pie and the $80,000 Chelsey Flower.
New York state currently requires all racetracks to operate without spectators in attendance to combat the spread of COVID-19. NYRA will issue updated guidance regarding COVID-19 health and safety protocols for jockeys, trainers and owners in the near future.