The first Grade 1 of the New York Racing Association’s 2022 season, and the possibility of a boosted purse in the track’s flagship Kentucky Derby prep, headline Aqueduct Racetrack’s Spring Meet stakes schedule.

Bourbonic-Aqueduct spring stakes
Kendrick Carmouche and 72/1 Bourbonic won the 2021 Wood Memorial in the slowest time since 1952. The NYRA wants to boost the prestige of the once-front-row Kentucky Derby prep by raising the purse if a Grade/Group 1 winner enters the April 9 race. (Image: Joe Labozzetta/Coglianese Photos)

The 15-day spring meet opens Thursday, March 31, and runs through Sunday, April 24. Aqueduct’s Spring Meet offers 13 stakes worth $2.7 million in purses.

As usual at the Big A, the marquee race is the $750,000 Grade 2 Wood Memorial, which headlines the April 9 card. This year, the NYRA adds a new proposition to the Wood Memorial windfall: should any horse in the field register a Grade 1 or Group 1 victory prior to racing in the 1 1/8-mile Wood Memorial, the NYRA will add $250,000 to the purse. That purse bump is contingent on that qualifying horse being an official starter.

Along with that purse, the Wood Memorial offers 100-40-20-10 Derby qualifying points to its top four finishers.

NYRA trying to boost slumping Wood Memorial

The NYRA made the move at Aqueduct to counter recent weak fields in the Wood Memorial. It’s designed to lure horses such as Champagne Stakes winner Jack Christopher or Breeders’ Futurity winner Rattle N Roll. Even Bob Baffert’s Corniche and Pinehurst are in the discussion. Corniche won two juvenile Grade 1s: the American Pharoah at Santa Anita Park and the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Del Mar. Pinehurst won the other Grade 1, the Del Mar Futurity.

Being Baffert trainees, neither is currently eligible for Derby points because Baffert is suspended from Churchill Downs for the 2022 and 2023 Derbies. He’s likely to leave Corniche on the West Coast anyway, but the Hall of Fame trainer does like splitting his Derby hopefuls as long as possible. He could use Aqueduct as a prep outlet.

The Wood Memorial card also offers the $300,000 Carter Handicap. The seven-furlong sprint for older horses is the NYRA’s first Grade 1 race of 2022.

Aqueduct Key 2022 Spring Meet Stakes Schedule

Race Grade Distance Eligible Horses
April 2 Excelsior III 1 1/8 miles 4-year-olds and up
April 9 Carter Handicap I Seven furlongs 4-year-olds and up
April 9 Wood Memorial II 1 1/8 miles 3-year-olds
April 9 Gazelle III 1 1/8 miles 3-year-old fillies
April 9 Bay Shore III Seven furlongs 3-year-olds
April 9 Distaff Handicap III Seven Furlongs 4-year-olds and up, fillies & mares

Also on that Wood Memorial card are three Grade 3 races: the $250,000 Gazelle, the $200,000 Bay Shore, and the $150,000 Distaff Handicap. The Gazelle is a Kentucky Oaks prep offering 100-40-20-10 Derby qualifying points to its top two finishers. The Bay Shore sends its 3-year-old sprinters seven furlongs. The Distaff Handicap is a seven-furlong sprint for older fillies and mares.

The meet’s stakes schedule opens Saturday, April 2 with the $150,000 Grade 3 Excelsior, a 1 1/8-mile route for older horses. It closes Sunday, April 24 with a New York-bred stakes race, the Park Avenue at 6 1/2 furlongs for 3-year-old fillies, and the ungraded Memories of Silver, for 3-year-old turf routers.

The entire Aqueduct Racetrack spring stakes schedule can be found here.