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Saratoga Race Course Summer Meet Has Another Stacked Stakes Schedule Lined Up for 2021

This year's highlights will once again be the $1.25 million Travers on August 28 and the $1 million Whitney on August 7.

Travers Day
A scene from Travers Stakes Day 2019. (Katie Dobies)

After 2020’s lost season, a limited number of horse racing fans will finally be back in the stands at Saratoga Race Course. What will they have to look forward to? The New York Racing Association (NYRA) today announced the stakes schedule for the 40-day summer meet, which will include 76 stakes worth $21.5 million in total purses. NYRA announced last month that the Saratoga meet would begin on July 15 and run through September 6.

Once again, the Whitney Handicap and Travers Stakes will be the highlights of the season, back in their original time-slots and ready for the best Thoroughbreds in the country. The 152nd running of the Grade 1, $1.25 million Travers will take place on August 28, with the Grade 1, $1 million Whitney rumbling in on August 7.

Also included during the meet will be the Grade 1, $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup and the Grade 1, $600,000 Flower Bowl, both previously run during the fall meet at Belmont Park.

Following Opening Weekend, racing will take place Wednesdays through Sundays, with the exception of the final week, when the meet will conclude on Labor Day.

Whitney Day will feature three Grade 1 events, led by the 1 1/8-mile Whitney, which will offer the winner an automatic berth to the Breeders’ Cup Classic on November 6 at Del Mar. Also on the card will be the $500,000 Test Stakes and the $1 million Saratoga Derby Invitational, the second jewel of the Turf Triple series, a first-time Grade 1er. The Whitney card will also include the Grade 2, $250,000 Glens Falls and the $120,000 Fasig-Tipton Lure. Beginning on August 6, Whitney weekend will also include the Grade 2, $200,000 National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame; the Grade 3, $200,000 Troy; and the $120,000 Alydar. The weekend concludes on August 8, with three stakes, including the upgraded Grade 3, $700,000 Saratoga Oaks Invitational, the second leg of the Turf Triple series for sophomore fillies. The August 8 card will also include the Grade 2, $200,000 Adirondack and the $120,000 Fasig-Tipton De La Rose.

On Friday, August 27, New York–breds will be featured on New York Showcase Day, featuring six stakes worth a combined $1.15 million. The card is headlined by the $250,000 Albany, along with a trio of $200,000 stakes, the Fleet Indian, Funny Cide and Seeking the Ante. Rounding out the special day will be a pair of $150,000 turf events with the West Point Handicap and the Yaddo.

The main event, of course, will be the Travers, taking place on Saturday, August 28. The 2021 Travers Day card will include seven stakes, including six Grade 1s, offering up $4.6 million in total purse money with automatic berths in the Breeders’ Cup to the winner of the Grade 1, $750,000 Sword Dancer; the Grade 1, $600,000 Personal Ensign; and the Grade 1, $500,000 Ballerina. Additionally, the card will also include the Grade 1, $600,000 Forego and the Grade 1, $500,000 H. Allen Jerkens Memorial. Travers Day will also include the Grade 2, $400,000 Ballston Spa.

The Grade 2, $600,000 Jim Dandy, back this year as a local prep race for the Travers, will be held on Saturday, July 31. That day’s card will also include the Grade 1, $350,000 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap and the Grade 2, $250,000 Bowling Green at 1 3/8 miles on the turf. Closing out that weekend on August 1 will be the Grade 2, $200,000 Amsterdam.

Additional Saratoga races that have gone a tick up in grade include the Grade 3, $200,000 Caress, which will be run on Saturday, July 24, in addition to 20 stakes receiving a $20,000 boost to offer a $120,000 purse.

The Opening Day card on July 15 will include a pair of graded stakes, the Grade 3, $150,000 Schuylerville and the Grade 3, $120,000 Quick Call. The first Grade 1 of the 2021 season will be the $500,000 Diana on the 17th. The following Saturday, July 24, will also see the running of the Grade 1, $500,000 Coaching Club American Oaks.

Other notable Grade 1 stakes at Saratoga will include the $150,000 A.P. Smithwick Memorial on July 29 and the $150,000 New York Turf Writers Cup on August 26 for steeplechasers; the $600,000 Alabama on August 21; and the $500,000 Fourstardave Handicap, a Breeders’ Cup qualifier for the Mile, on August 14. The latter will be held on the same card as the Grade 2, $200,000 Saratoga Special.

Closing Weekend will feature a pair of Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” events, previously held as part of the Belmont fall meet. These will include the $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup and the $600,000 Flower Bowl, which serve as anchors of a September 4 card that will also include the Grade 2, $250,000 Prioress and the Grade 3, $300,000 Saranac. (Due to the pair of Grade 1s moving over from Belmont, the Grade 1, $750,000 Woodward and the Grade 3, $200,000 Waya will move from Saratoga to the Belmont fall meet.) The September 5 card will feature the Grade 1, $300,000 Spinaway, and Closing Day will feature the Grade 2, $200,000 Bernard Baruch Handicap and Grade 1, $300,000 Hopeful.

Late last year, NYRA announced that during the 2021 season, at least at its tracks, the use of Lasix would be banned within 48 hours of all stakes races.

With 10 percent capacity limitations in place, fans will be required to present NYRA proof of a negative COVID-19 PCR test, taken within 72 hours of their ticketed day at the races, as well as wear face masks and adhere to social distancing rules while inside the gates of Saratoga Race Course.

Additional details on fan attendance and tickets for the 2021 summer meet will be provided as information becomes available.

Will Levith

Will Levith is Editorial Director at Saratoga Living and Capital Region Living magazine. He's a native Saratogian and graduate of Saratoga Springs High School. His work has been published by Esquire, Playboy, Condé Nast Traveler, Men's Health, RealClearLife and many others. He lives in Troy with his wife, Laura, and dog, Esopus.

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