Live thoroughbred racing will return to historic Saratoga Race Course on Friday, July 20 for its premier 40-day summer meet. The 2018 meet includes 69 stakes worth a record $18.85 million in purses, and will run through Labor Day, Monday, September 3. After opening weekend, racing will be conducted six days a week, Wednesdays through Mondays.
Opening weekend features several graded stakes races showcasing some of the best fillies and mares in the country. The meet will get underway on Friday, July 20 with gates opening at 11 a.m. and first post time at 1 p.m. The Grade 3, $150,000 Schuylerville Stakes for 2-year-old fillies and the Grade 3, $150,000 Lake George Stakes for 3-year-old turf fillies headline the day.
On Saturday, the focal point is the Grade 1, $500,000 Diana Stakes for fillies and mares at 1 1/8 miles on the turf. The Grade 3, $150,000 Sanford, a six-furlong race for 2-year-olds, will also be run on Saturday. Capping the star-studded weekend, Sunday's Grade 1, $300,000 Coaching Club American Oaks for 3-year-old fillies is expected to feature a rematch between Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks and Acorn winner Monomoy Girl and the ever-impressive Midnight Bisou, third in the Oaks and recent six-length winner of the Grade 2 Mother Goose.
The 91st running of the Grade 1, $1.2 million Whitney Handicap highlights an amazing day of racing on Saturday, August 4. A Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In" qualifier for the Classic this fall, the 1 1/8-mile race for 3-year-olds and up regularly attracts the best older horses in the country. This year's field is likely to include multiple Grade 1 winner and reigning New York-bred Horse of the Year Mind Your Biscuits. The day also features the Grade 1, $500,000 Longines Test for 3-year-old fillies, as well as three other stakes.
Featuring six Grade 1 stakes races, Travers Day on Saturday, August 25 is one of the most exciting days of racing in North America. The 149th running of the Grade 1, $1.25 million Travers Stakes, the most prestigious 3-year-old stakes of the summer, will anchor the second "must see" day of the Saratoga meet.
Joining the Mid-Summer Derby are four Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In" races: the Grade 1, $1 million Sword Dancer for 3-year-olds and up on the turf at 1 ½ miles offering an all-fees-paid berth into the Longines Turf; the Grade 1, $700,000 Personal Ensign for fillies and mares at 1 1/8 miles for a spot in the Longines Distaff; the Grade 1, $500,000 Ketel One Ballerina over seven furlongs for fillies and mares for the Filly & Mare Sprint; and the Grade 1, $600,000 Forego Stakes at seven furlongs for an entry into the Dirt Mile.
The day also features the Grade 1, $500,000 H. Allen Jerkens, a seven-furlong sprint for 3-year-olds, and the Grade 2, $400,000 Woodford Reserve Ballston Spa for fillies and mares over 1 1/16 miles on the turf.
In 2017, Todd Pletcher regained his place at the top of the trainer standings to earn his 13th H. Allen Jerkens training title. Pletcher's 40 victories tied the win record set the year before by Mechanicville, N.Y. native Chad Brown, a two-time Eclipse Award winner as Outstanding Trainer who is coming off his third straight training title for the Belmont spring/summer meet.
The race for top jockey will likely come down to a renewed bout of sibling rivalry, with 2017 Angel Cordero, Jr. winner Jose Ortiz looking to defend his first Saratoga riding championship against his older brother, 2015 Saratoga leader Irad Ortiz, Jr. Up-and-coming jockey Manny Franco, who picked up his first riding title for the 2018 Aqueduct winter meet, will likely try to improve on his fourth-place finish in last year's standings. Hall of Famers John Velazquez and Javier Castellano are also expected to vie for contention.
Increased purses, new purse distribution announced for 2018 Saratoga meet
The New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA) has announced a $2,000 across-the-board purse increase for all maiden and allowance races, as well as some claiming races, for the 2018 meet at Saratoga Race Course.
For the prestigious 40-day meet, which runs from Friday, July 20 to Monday, September 3, top maiden special weights will now carry a purse of $85,000 and first-level allowance optional claiming races will carry $95,000.
Additionally, the 2018 Saratoga meet will also introduce a new and permanent purse distribution allocation. With the exception of any stakes with awards specifically stated in the condition book, all races going forward will pay out as follows: 55 percent of the total purse to the winner, 20 percent to second place, 12 percent to third, six percent to fourth, four percent to fifth, with the remaining three percent divided among the remaining runners.
The new purse distribution will be adjusted from the current breakdown of 60-20-10-5-3 percent to the top five finishers, respectively, with the remaining two percent divided among the remainder of the field.