SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. — Saratoga Race Course opens its 146th summer of thoroughbred racing Friday with a richer stakes lineup.
The 40-day meet runs six days a week, excluding Tuesdays, through Labor Day and features a record $17.45 million in stakes purses. Friday's 10-race card includes the $150,000 Schuylerville for 2-year-old fillies on the main track and the $100,000 Sir Cat for 3-year-olds on the turf course.
Saratoga's major races have heftier purses. The 1 1/8-mile Whitney for 3-year-olds and up on Aug. 2 was increased from $750,000 to $1.5 million, making it the most lucrative stakes of the meeting. Grade 1 winners Palace Malice, Will Take Charge and Moonshine Mullin are all pointing to the race.
"The purse structure is second to none," said Todd Pletcher, the 10-time Saratoga training champion who trains Palace Malice. "With the exception of the Breeders' Cup Classic, I think the Whitney is the biggest handicap purse we have in the country, which it probably should be. Saratoga is arguably the most prestigious meet we have. It's always an exciting time."
The 1 1/4-mile Travers will be run for the 145th time on Aug. 23. Its purse has grown from $1 million to $1.25 million. One of the oldest races for 3-year-olds, the Travers is expected to draw Belmont Stakes winner Tonalist as well as Kentucky Derby runner-up Commanding Curve, Preakness runner-up Ride On Curlin and Grade 1 winner Wicked Strong.
Whitney and Travers days will feature multiple graded-stakes events, and Aug. 24 will be the inaugural Saratoga Showcase, highlighted by six stakes races for horses bred in New York.
In total, Saratoga will host 71 stakes, including 35 graded stakes and 17 Grade 1 races, starting with Saturday's $500,000 Diana for fillies and mares on the turf.