SARATOGA SPRINGS — Other than a few tweaks — and a significant addition to the track configuration — the stakes calendar for the 154th Saratoga Race Course meet will closely resemble the 2021 meet, highlighted by the 153rd Travers for 3-year-olds scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 27 and the $1 million Whitney on Aug. 6.
Featuring 40 days of live racing and dark days on Monday and Tuesday, the Saratoga meet will open on Thursday, July 14, and conclude on Labor Day, Sept. 5.
The stakes roster includes 77 races worth a total of $22.6 million in purses, $1.25 million of which will be awarded in the Travers. The total marks an increase of $1.1 million from the 2021 stakes purses.
Many of the changes to the 2022 stakes amount to purse boosts to some of the lower-level stakes.
The most significant change on the schedule is pulling the Grade I Ballerina, which draws many of the top female sprinters in North America, from the Travers Day card, to be run as the feature on the next day, Sunday, Aug. 28.
That still leaves Travers Day with a total of five Grade I races, including the Travers, Personal Ensign for fillies and mares on the dirt, Sword Dancer on turf, Forego for sprinters and H. Allen Jerkens, a seven-furlong sprint restricted to 3-year-olds.
Travers Day also retains the Grade II Ballston Spa for fillies and mares on the turf.
The Opening Day card will strike a familiar note with the traditional running of the Grade III Schuylerville, the first of three legs of graded stakes on the dirt for 2-year-old fillies.
It will also re-introduce fans to the newly reconstructed Wilson Chute on the clubhouse turn, which affords a track configuration for dirt mile races on the main track.
The New York Racing Association will waste no time taking advantage of that, with the ungraded $135,000 Wilton for 3-year-old fillies scheduled for Opening Day.
The Wilson Chute was rebuilt for the 1992 meet, but was immediately dismantled again after one season.
The new feature will also come into play on the stakes schedule on Aug. 12 for the inaugural Johnstone Mile, named for longtime horseman and NYRA manager of racing operations Bruce Johnstone, who died of cancer in February 2020.
Besides Travers Day, the Whitney and the Ballerina, there will be 12 other Grade I races, the first of which is the Diana for fillies and mares on the turf opening weekend.
The calendar is also heavy on stakes restricted to New York-breds, highlighted by New York Showcase Day on Travers eve, Friday, Aug. 26, with a total of $1.25 million in purses for six stakes.
For the second year in a row, closing weekend will include two stakes traditionally held later in the season at Belmont Park, the Jockey Club Gold Cup and Flower Bowl, which were moved to Saratoga in an attempt to accommodate connections with horses pointing toward the Breeders’ Cup in November. The Jockey Club Gold Cup and Flower Bowl are both “Win and You’re In” automatic qualifying races for the BC Classic and Filly & Mare Turf, respectively.
Also on closing weekend, the Grade III Prioress has been moved from Saturday to Friday, Sept. 4.
You can see the full 2022 Saratoga stakes schedule here