By Bob Ehalt
Santa Claus may be arriving in little more than a week, but the real present for New York racing will come in about two weeks.
Once the calendar turns to 2012, New York horsemen and horseplayers can sing a carol or two about all of the extra bling that will be pumped into purses, courtesy of the Resort World Casino New York City.
January 1 officially marks the start of the purse incentives provided by the casino, but there are already a couple of places where you can find a preview of just how different things will be in 2012.
One is the New York Racing Association’s condition book for January 1-22. There you can peruse the official listings for a $60,000 maiden special weight sprint and a $67,000 non-winners of one allowance route.
In Aqueduct’s previous condition book the maiden race was worth only $50,000 and the allowance $53,000, reflecting how it will be far more rewarding to race in New York in the coming year. And, in case you’re wondering how any of that will benefit fans, with that extra cash will come more horses and bigger and better fields, which usually translates into better payoffs for value-minded handicappers.
Here’s just one example of the reasons why more horsemen will target NYRA races:
On Jan. 14, there will be a $7,500 claiming sprint that will carry a beefed up $29,000 purse. Under those conditions, a horse which is worth only $7,500 can bring home nearly $18,000 for winning the race. Even a runner-up finish will be worth close to $6,000.
With money like that on the table, horsemen will have more reasons than ever to bring their better horses to the Big Apple and hopefully that will inevitably end the days of four-horse fields with 2-5 favorites – or, at the very least, reduce their frequency.
While claiming, maiden and allowance races are the bread and butter of the sport, NYRA’s recently released winter/spring 2012 stakes schedule has also been revitalized with nuggets of gold from the casino. A total of 13 graded stakes will be offered through April 22, checking in at a combined value of a rather hefty $3.75 million.
The $1 million Resorts World Casino New York City Wood Memorial on April 7 highlights the package, though then infusion of cash has allowed NYRA to brighten up winter racing long before the Wood reminds us that spring and the Triple Crown are right around the corner.
On the initial Saturdays in February, March and April, NYRA has bundled at least 3 stakes on each card to create a quality afternoon of racing that might entice fans to brave the cold and head out to visit the new-look Big A and its new neighbor, the casino.
On Feb. 4, the Withers returns after a one-year vacation and joins a pair of sprint stakes, the Toboggan for colts and the Correction for fillies, on the card. For 3-year-olds at a mile and a sixteenth, the Withers offers a $200,000 purse and kicks off a trio of lucrative Triple Crown preps. The Gotham, worth $400,000, follows on March 3, and after that comes the Wood, giving Triple Crown hopefuls ample opportunities to boost their graded stakes earnings, which may hold the key to running in the Kentucky Derby.
Aside from the Gotham, the March 3 card includes the $200,000 Tom Fool, a 6-furlong sprint, the $200,000 Top Flight, a mile and a sixteenth test for fillies and mares, and the $75,000 King’s Point for New York State-breds.
On April 7, the nationally televised Wood will be flanked by the $400,000 Carter, $250,000 Comely, and $250,000 Bay Shore.
None of those days may be Super Saturday with its five Grade 1 stakes, but compared to past years, winter racing in New York just might be a hot item in 2012, all thanks to a casino that’s beginning to act a lot like a jolly old guy named Mr. Claus.