Empire Breeders Classic announced

by M. Kelly Young, Executive Director, Harness Horse Breeders of New York State

Latham, N.Y. – The New York Sire Stakes has announced the creation of the Empire Breeders Classic, a new stakes opportunity for New York-bred horses. The event will be for 3-year-old trotters and pacers, with separate divisions for colts and fillies featuring $150,000 estimated finals for each. It will be raced for the first time this summer as an early closing event scheduled for Memorial Day weekend at Tioga Downs and Vernon Downs.

New York stallion owners, Tioga Downs and Vernon Downs will jointly sponsor the event, with added money also contributed by the Agriculture and New York State Horse Breeding Development Fund, which sponsors the New York Sire Stakes program. In its introductory year the Empire Breeders Classic will feature an estimated $300,000 in added money in 2007, but is scheduled to grow to an estimated $500,000 in added money in 2008.

“Every additional racing opportunity that allows New York-bred horses to earn more money strengthens the New York Sire Stakes program and the demand for New York-bred horses,” said M. Kelly Young, executive director of Harness Horse Breeders of New York State. “Jeff Gural conceived of the idea and Tioga Downs and Vernon Downs have agreed to put up $100,000 each to support the race. The Breeding Development Fund has also agreed to provide approximately $50,000 this year and $200,000 next year in added money.”

The Empire Breeders Classic events for 3-year-old pacing colts and fillies will be held at Tioga Downs this year. Eliminations, if necessary, will be held on Sunday, May 20, with the final on Sunday, May 27. The events for 3-year-old trotting colts and fillies will be held at Vernon Downs. If necessary, eliminations will be held Saturday, May 19, with finals on Monday, May 28. Any eliminations will carry a guaranteed purse of $10,000 and each of the four finals is estimated to be $150,000 in 2007.

“I wanted to create a signature race for New York horses on Memorial Day weekend that would kick off the Sire Stakes season,” explained Gural, chairman of American Racing and Entertainment, parent company of Tioga and Vernon Downs. “These four races provide an outstanding opportunity to showcase New York-breds on large tracks and for large purses. I also hope it will be beneficial to breeders by giving yearling buyers and broodmare owners yet another reason to participate in New York.

“This stakes differs from other 3-year-old events because colts and fillies will race for the same amount of money,” he added. “And while the final purses in 2008 have been published as estimated at $150,000, I think there is a good chance they may be worth as much as $250,000 each.”

The Empire Breeders Classic is unique in that it requires stallion nomination. Stallion owners may nominate their stallion to the event and all of the progeny conceived in the designated year and subsequently nominated to the New York Sire Stakes may be made eligible to the Empire Breeders Classic.

Owners who registered and stood a stallion in New York during the 2003 and 2004 breeding seasons will be contacted by Harness Horse Breeders with more information about making current 2-year-olds and 3-year-olds eligible to these lucrative events. Stallion payments for both the 2007 and 2008 events will be due February 15, 2007.

Stallion nomination to the 2007 event will be by payment of one-half of the stallion’s service fee in 2003, with a minimum payment of $500. Stallion nomination to the 2008 event will be by payment equal to one service fee for the stallion in 2004, with a minimum payment of $1,000. Stallions breeding fewer than 20 mares in 2003 and 2004 may make their offspring eligible by payment of $500 and $1,000, respectively.

A list of nominated stallions for both the 2007 and 2008 Empire Breeders Classic will be announced following the February 15, 2007, deadline.

Any horse nominated to the New York Sire Stakes and sired by an Empire Breeders Classic-nominated stallion may become eligible to race through the following payment schedule:

3-Year-Olds (foals of 2004)

Nomination Fee—March 15, 2007 $1,000

Declaration Fee $2,500

2-Year-Olds (foals of 2005)

Nomination Fee—March 15, 2007 $350

Sustaining Fee—March 15, 2008 $1,000

Declaration Fee $2,500

Any horse, whose stallion was not nominated, may make an “in lieu of stallion” fee payment of $500 for the 2007 event or $1,000 for the 2008 event, plus all other payments listed above.

New York-nominated 2 and 3-year-old horses will receive information and entry forms for the Empire Breeders Classic along with their February 15 New York Sire Stakes payment slips. These will be mailed in mid-January.

The Empire Breeders Classic is not a Sire Stakes event and no points will be awarded toward the New York Sire Stakes Championship finals.

All payments must be sent to the Agriculture and New York State Horse Breeding Development Fund at 90 State Street, Albany, NY 12205. Questions about the Empire Breeders Classic may be directed to Harness Horse Breeders by calling 518-785-5858 or e-mailing nyss@nysirestakes.com.

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