In light of the positive response to the creation of the Belmont Derby Invitational Stakes and Belmont Oaks Invitational Stakes, the New York Racing Association is taking the next step forward by launching a pair of Triple Crown turf series, one for 3-year-old males and one for sophomore fillies.
The impending release of the 2019 NYRA stakes schedule for Saratoga Race Course and the Belmont Park fall meet will include the unveiling of two new turf stakes for 3-year-olds and two new turf stakes for 3-year-old fillies that will join the Belmont Derby and Belmont Oaks in becoming the "Turf Trinity" for males and "Turf Tiara" for fillies.
Sources say that for males the "Turf Trinity" will be comprised of three $1 million races at the same distances as the dirt Triple Crown for 3-year-olds of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve, the Preakness Stakes, and the Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets.
Following the $1 million, Grade 1 Belmont Derby at 1 ¼ miles July 6 at Belmont Park, the $1 million Saratoga Derby will be contested Sunday, Aug. 4 at 1 3/16 miles at Saratoga. The series will conclude with the $1 million Jockey Club Derby at Belmont Park Saturday, Sept. 7 at 1 ½ miles.
"The Turf Trinity is designed to emulate the American dirt classics," said Martin Panza, NYRA's Senior Vice President of Racing Operations, in a statement. "The three-race, $3,000,000 series complements the schedule with no overlap of the American Triple Crown races while also providing international runners an opportunity to race against 3-year-olds later into the summer."
For fillies, the "Triple Tiara" starts with the $750,000, Grade 1 Belmont Oaks July 6 at Belmont at 1 ¼ miles, followed by the $750,000 Saratoga Oaks Friday, Aug. 2 at 1 3/16 miles, and the $750,000 Jockey Club Oaks Sept. 7 at a 1 3/8 miles at Belmont.
"The Turf Tiara, a three-race $2,250,000 series, will shadow the colt division, providing a well-defined pattern of races highlighting future turf stars while serving as a test of their speed, versatility and endurance," Panza said.
With the introduction of the lucrative new turf stakes, the purse for the Belmont Derby is being cut by $200,000 and the Belmont Oaks will drop from $1 million to $750,000.
At the moment there are no plans to offer a bonus for sweeping either series of races.
Although the four new stakes won't be eligible for graded stakes status until their third year, the Jockey Club Derby is expected to be part of the Breeders' Cup Challenge series with the winner receiving a "Win and You're In" spot in the Longines Breeders' Cup Turf.
Garrett O'Rourke, the United States general manager for Juddmonte Farms, said the new turf stakes and Triple Crown series will benefit both horsemen and breeders.
"I think they will be a huge addition," O'Rourke said. "There has been a lot of encouragement lately to get trainers to increase the number of turf horses in their stables because they had been slow to adapt to what's happening. When you create big races like these, it creates a purpose for breeding turf horses and it will encourage American breeders to invest more money in turf horses once again.
"It was something American breeders did about 30 years ago and the reason they stopped was because American trainers perceived there was not enough turf stakes. Adding those races to the beautiful facilities in New York will attract the top horses, and breeders will begin to produce better turf horses."
O'Rourke believes the new stakes at Saratoga and Belmont, like the Belmont Derby and Belmont Oaks, will receive support from European stables.
"They will definitely bring top runners from Europe because they will always follow the money and it's an easy hop to New York," O'Rourke said. "Aidan O'Brien has proven that. People are not afraid of these trips anymore. For Aidan it's as easy to go from Ballydoyle in Ireland to New York as it is for Bob Baffert to come from Santa Anita to Belmont.
"The September race could be influenced by the (Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, held at Longchamp Racecourse in France in October), but someone like Aidan has five top horses in each class and even if he sends his No. 1 to the Arc, he can send No. 2 to New York and that will be an exceptional horse, and that horse might return for the Breeders' Cup."
NYRA also has arranged national television coverage of the four new races. The Jockey Club Derby and Oaks will air on NBC, which will also carry the Belmont Derby and Oaks. The Saratoga Oaks can be seen on FOX Sports 2, with FOX Sports 1 showing the Saratoga Derby.
In addition, the Sept. 7 card on the opening weekend of Belmont Park's fall meet will include the $300,000 Grand Prix American Jockey Club Invitational, a 12-furlong dirt race that replaces the $200,000 Temperance Hill Invitational at 1 5/8 miles, which was contested Sept. 30 last year.
With the addition of the new races, the Sept. 7 card will be called the Jockey Club Derby Racing Festival.
Panza said on Feb. 13 that NYRA will continue its strong commitment to both turf and dirt racing for 3-year-olds across all categories, while endeavoring to offer horsemen a wide variety of options to compete at all levels.
"As American racing moves more toward the turf, both series of races should enhance the value of turf stallions, mares, and quality turf runners. If this helps farms, breeders, sales companies and owners, while at the same time providing an exciting new racing event for race fans to follow, then our efforts will be well rewarded," Panza said. "NYRA will continue to maintain a strong commitment towards our 3-year-old dirt schedule offering the best of both worlds. There has been tremendous industry support and NYRA would like to thank those involved for their understanding and cooperation."