The 56-day meeting will offer an average of more than $600,000 per day in purses, which will attract barns from throughout the country who will converge in the Big Apple.
There are 26 graded stakes to be run during the meeting, including eight Grade 1 races, led by the $1 million Belmont Stakes.
The Belmont Stakes Day card features four other graded stakes: the $500,000 Manhattan (G1) for older runners on the turf, $500,000 Just a Game for fillies and mares going one mile on grass, $400,000 Woody Stephens (G2) for three-year-olds at seven furlongs on the main track, and the $400,000 True North Handicap (G2) at six furlongs for three-year-olds and upward.
Jockey Ramon Dominguez won the jockey title here last year with 71 winners from 320 mounts, edging Javier Castellano, who booted home 69 winners from his 299 mounts.
Dominguez was injured in a spill on March 18 and has been mired in a slump since returning to riding on April 18 and is going to find several new faces in the jockey’s room at this meeting.
Junior Alvarado , Julien Leparoux, and Rosie Napravnik will be riding full time at the meet.
Leparoux was the 2009 Eclipse Award winner for outstanding jockey and is a familiar face in New York, doing well at recent Saratoga meetings.
Alvarado was third at the Aqueduct inner track meeting and Napravnik has spent previous winters riding on a regular basis on the inner track at Aqueduct and recently won the Fair Grounds jockey title for the second year in a row.
Toss in New York regulars John Velazquez. David Cohen, Alan Garcia, Jose Lezcano, Rajiv Maragh, Corey Nakatani, Edgar Prado and Cornelio Velasquez and the competition for mounts will be intense throughout the meeting.
Todd Pletcher and Linda Rice shared top honors in the trainer standings here last season, each with 25 winners.
Pletcher started 94 runners while Rice saddled 119.
Other trainers that had solid meetings last year were Rudy Rodriguez (17%), Dominic Galluscio (22%), Carlos Martin (31%), Bill Mott (23%) and Rick Dutrow (25%).
The training title could be up for grabs this year as well with several barns that in past years would ship into Belmont Park having requested stalls for the meeting, including Graham Motion, Mike Trombetta, Ralph Nicks, and Tom Proctor.
Other trainers from out of town who figure to make their presence known at the meeting include Eddie Kenneally, Mike Maker, and Ken McPeek.
The first graded stake of the meeting is coming up on Saturday, the $150,000 Westchester (G3) for three-year-olds and upward going a mile on the main track.
The Memorial Day card on May 28 will feature the first three Grade 1 races at the meeting: the $750,000 Metropolitan Handicap, $400,000 Ogden Phipps, and the $300,000 Acorn.
Johnny V, Rice Take Top Honors at Big A Spring Meeting
John Velazquez won the jockey title at the spring Aqueduct with 24 winners , while David Cohen was second with 20 wins and Eddie Castro third with 18.
Linda Rice finished the spring meeting strong, picking up four wins on Saturday, then won the final race on Sunday’s card to edge Rudy Rodriguez by a 13-12 margin to win the training title.
Drawing Away Stable was the meet’s leading owner with seven victories.
Michael Dempsey provides his selections for Belmont Park and Keeneland each racing day. Mike’s Best Plays Report is available each weekend, with his strongest plays and selections including the top stakes races.