04/15/2011 2:57PM

Belmont bumps purses for 2-year-old maiden races to $60,000

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OZONE PARK, N.Y. – In an effort to stimulate this circuit’s 2-year-old program, the New York Racing Association announced that purses for all juvenile maiden races at the upcoming Belmont Park spring/summer meet will be worth $60,000. Belmont opens on April 29.

That represents a $10,000 increase in open company maiden races and a $20,000 boost to New York-maiden races. NYRA ran its first 2-year-old race of the year on Friday at Aqueduct and the purse of that race – won by the Maryland-based Distinctly Donovan – was $42,000.

“We’re trying to promote the 2-year-old program a little bit, get them started a little earlier,’’ said P.J. Campo, NYRA’s director of racing.

Campo said that last year, NYRA ran only 15 juvenile races at the Belmont spring/summer meeting. In Belmont’s first condition book _ which runs through May 22 _ there are three maiden special weight races for 2-year-olds for each sex as well as one for New York-breds and one maiden $50,000 claimer.

Campo is hoping the significant purse increase will draw interest from horsemen from other jurisdictions such as Churchill Downs ($49,000 for maiden 2-year-olds), Monmouth Park ($45,000), and Delaware Park ($40,000).

NYRA will run a pair of Grade 2 stakes worth $150,000 at the spring meet, the Futurity for males and the Matron for fillies. Those races, which were not scheduled in 2010, had traditionally been run in the fall.

Campo is hopeful that several new horsemen scheduled to be at Belmont this spring can help stimulate the 2-year-old program. One of those trainers is David Fawkes, who said he plans to have eight to 10 juveniles among his string of 30 horses at Belmont this summer. Fawkes had two juveniles entered on Sunday at Gulfstream, where the pot is $52,500.

“If they don’t win [at Gulfstream] we’ll run them up there,’’ Fawkes said.

Linda Rice, who finished second in Friday’s first 2-year-old race at Aqueduct, said typically she brings her 2-year-olds to Saratoga on May 1 and usually has them ready to run by the time that meet opens in late July.

“If some are more precocious than others and are ready to run I’ll bring them there,’’ Rice said. “The bulk of them won’t run until Saratoga based on their own physical attributes. I really do believe to have more 2-year-old races in New York they need to write more claiming races; divide up the categories so that other people have an opportunity to win.’’