NYRA Starter Loyalty Program Big Part Of Empire Showcase Day

The New York Racing Association’s innovative 2018-19 Starter Loyalty Program is off to a fast start this fall with more than $300,000 in purse bonuses distributed following its implementation on April 2, 2018.

Through October 18, $347,320.50 has been earned by more than 400 eligible starters in all winners’ races, just over six months since the Starter Loyalty Program was rolled out. Under the program, horses can earn Silver through Diamond-level purse bonuses between 5 and 15 percent on money earned in a qualifying race, based on their number of starts at NYRA tracks through April 1, 2019.

Among the most high-profile loyalty earners so far this season are Uriah St. Lewis-owned and trained Discreet Lover, who netted an additional $20,625 as a Silver member for his surprise victory in the Grade 1, $750,000 Jockey Club Gold Cup on September 29, and Robert S. Evans’ homebred Silver member Have At It, who garnered an extra $13,750 in earnings for his standout performance in the Grade 2, $500,000 Hill Prince for trainer Christophe Clement on October 6.

The growing ubiquity of the NYRA Loyalty Program will be on full display this weekend with 50 individual members of the NYRA Loyalty Program entered on Saturday’s Empire Showcase Day. Featuring all New York-breds, the 11-race program includes eight stakes races, capped by the $300,000 Empire Classic, which has attracted a competitive field of 11. Of the 89 entered in Saturday’s stakes, 40 are members of the Loyalty Program – 34 Silver and six Gold. Empire Showcase Day will be broadcast on Belmont Park Live, airing on MSG and MSG+ from 4-6 p.m. with live coverage and analysis of the $250,000 Sleepy Hollow, $250,000 Empire Distaff and the $300,000 Empire Classic.

“It’s definitely good for the owners, so obviously, I’ve been very much for the program,” said Linda Rice, who won the Grade 1, $500,000 Fourstardave with Barry K. Schwartz’s Voodoo Song for a $13,750 Silver-level bonus and will saddle Silver members Holiday Disguise and She’s Trouble in Saturday’s $150,000 Iroquois and $250,000 Maid of the Mist, respectively.

“Any additional incentive we can have certainly helps pay the bills and it’s certainly nice when you see the asterisk on the overnight and know that you’re in for a little bigger check. That’s always good,” she added.

“It’s designed to be a benefit to the people who are here year-round and I think anything that can financially benefit the clients, being the owners and horsemen, will end up being good for business,” said NYRA-based trainer David Donk. “You’ve got a lot that are already at certain tiers and a lot of them that are dirt horses who should progress through the winter.

“It’s still in the early stages, but already, you can look at the overnight and see a lot of S’s and G’s,” Donk continued. “You can tell a difference, so let’s hope that encourages more people to get involved.”

NYRA 2018-19 Loyalty Program, at a glance:
From the period between April 2, 2018 through April 1, 2019

  • NYRA Silver: Starts 5 and 6
    • Runners will compete for 5% more purse money
  • NYRA Gold: Starts 7, 8, and 9
    • Runners will compete for 7.5% more purse money
  • NYRA Platinum: Starts 10 and 11
    • Runners will compete for 12.5% more purse money
  • NYRA Diamond: Starts 12 and higher
    • Runners will compete for 15% more purse money
For example, for a $100,000 stakes race this fall at Belmont Park, a NYRA Silver member could receive an additional $2,750 on top of the $55,000 winner’s share of the purse. For a stakes at the same level during the Aqueduct Winter Meet, a NYRA Platinum member could earn an additional $6,875 above the $55,000 winner’s share.

The number of starts transfer with horses that are claimed or have undergone ownership changes.

Qualifying starts for bonus money include any winners’ races. Maiden races do not award purse bonuses but are counted as starts. For example, if a horse breaks his maiden on his fifth start of the season, his sixth start will be in a winners’ race and therefore he would be considered a Silver member.

Races not counted as a qualifying start include any race in which a horse is beaten by 25 lengths or more, or any race in which a horse is placed on the vet’s list for lameness or unsoundness. The horse must be declared an official starter to get credit for the start. Only two starts in any 30-day period are counted toward the program. Additionally, award money is not paid on breeders’ purse supplements.

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