05/12/2004 11:00PM

Belmont Day purses get boost


ELMONT, N.Y. - It should come as no surprise that management at the New York Racing Association is rooting for Smarty Jones to get the job done in Saturday's Preakness Stakes, so he will come to the 136th Belmont Stakes on June 5 with a Triple Crown on the line.

Last year, New York-bred Funny Cide created a media frenzy after he won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness and set his sights on becoming the 12th Triple Crown winner in the Belmont. Despite ghastly weather conditions on Belmont Stakes Day, Funny Cide's popularity resulted in the second-largest crowd in Belmont's history - 101,864. Funny Cide finished third in the slop behind Empire Maker and Ten Most Wanted.

In the 2002 Belmont, the 70-1 Sarava shocked the record crowd of 103,222 when he denied War Emblem the Triple Crown.

Bill Nader, a senior vice president at NYRA, said if Smarty Jones enters the Belmont Stakes undefeated, history will be made.

"It would result in the biggest day in the history of Belmont Park," Nader said. "As big as it was last year, the fact that [Smarty Jones] would come to the Belmont undefeated, I think makes him even a bigger story than Funny Cide. I think his story will be compelling."

Purses for overnight races for Belmont Stakes Day will be increased by $10,000 each, bringing the total purse money for the day to approximately $2,611,000.

Six overnight allowance races and one overnight stakes, the $70,000 White Carnation, were boosted by $10,000. A total of 13 races will be run on the Belmont Stakes card.

Purses for the overnight allowance races range from $55,000 to $59,000.

In addition to the Grade 1, $1 million Belmont, five other graded races will be run: the Grade 1, $400,000 Manhattan; Grade 2, $250,000 Just a Game Breeders' Cup; Grade 2, $200,000 True North Breeders' Cup; Grade 2, $200,000 Riva Ridge Breeders' Cup; and Grade 2, $150,000 Vagrancy Handicap.

Mike Lakow, NYRA's racing secretary and handicapper, said management wished to show its appreciation to horsemen by beefing up the overnight purses.

"The past two years, horsemen have been very supportive of Belmont Day and we wanted to show our consideration and give it back to the owners," Lakow said. "Hopefully it pays off, and we can provide fans and the industry with the best racing possible."

Sinister G may skip Peter Pan

Sinister G remains under consideration for next Saturday's $200,000 Peter Pan, but his trainer, John Toscano Jr., said he wouldn't mind finding an easier spot.

Sinister G, who won the $500,000 Lane's End at Turfway Park in March, hasn't run since finishing 10th in the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct on April 10. Sinister G came out of the race with a respiratory infection, which required two rounds of antibiotic treatment. The illness also knocked him out of training for several days.

Toscano would like to use Sinister G's next start as a stepping-stone to the $350,000 Ohio Derby at Thistledown on June 12. Under the allowance conditions of the Grade 2 Peter Pan, Sinister G would have to carry top weight of 123 pounds.

"The Peter Pan looks like it's coming up too tough; we would be going right into the lions," Toscano said. "I would prefer to find an allowance race around the same time of the Peter Pan."

Sinister G is eligible for a third-level allowance race, but the only races in Belmont's new condition book at that level on the dirt are for older horses.

According to the racing office, other horses under consideration for the 1 1/8-mile Peter Pan, a prep for the Belmont Stakes, are Friends Lake, Master David, Read the Footnotes, Consecrate, Tiger Hunt, Wild Wadi, and Zakocity.