08/31/2001 11:00PM

Big M meet offering Big Apple-like purses

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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - The fall Thoroughbred racing meet at The Meadowlands has always taken place in the shadow of New York racing. This year, the track is putting up big-city purses in an attempt to emerge from that shadow.

The meet begins Labor Day with a special afternoon program. The feature is the $100,000 Bergen County Stakes, which attracted 3-year-old sprint star City Zip.

With the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority capitalizing on the momentum built at a record-setting summer at Monmouth Park, overnight purses at the 49-day Meadowlands meet will average about $300,000 per day - the most in track history.

Eibar Coa, the leading jockey at Monmouth, will ride at The Meadowlands, while apprentice jockey Jeremy Rose will perform double duty at Delaware by day and The Meadowlands by night in a push for the apprentice Eclipse Award. In addition, New York-based riders Aaron Gryder and Shaun Bridgmohan are expected to ride at The Meadowlands several nights a week.

Trainers Todd Pletcher and Juan Serey are also expected to make an impact with strings from across the Hudson River.

The highlight of the stakes schedule is the Grade 2, $500,000 Meadowlands Cup on Sept. 28. The date of the race was moved up a couple weeks to make it a prep for the Breeders' Cup Classic Oct. 27 at Belmont. Fillies and mares can prep for the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf on the Meadowlands Cup undercard in the $150,000 Violet Handicap.

The opening-day Bergen County Stakes, on the only afternoon program of the meet, got an unexpected boost when Jersey Shore Breeders' Cup and Amsterdam Stakes winner City Zip was supplemented and entered.

City Zip, who most recently finished third in the King's Bishop Stakes on Aug. 25 at Saratoga for trainer Linda Rice, will face just four rivals, including Max Jones, who is looking for his second straight win.

In addition to the Bergen County, 3-year-old fillies will go a mile on the grass Monday in the $75,000 Just Smashing Stakes.

Other stakes at the meet include the Grade 2, $250,000 Pegasus Handicap for 3-year-olds Oct. 19; the Grade 3, $150,000 Cliff Hanger Handicap on turf Sept. 14; the Grade 3, $200,000 Boiling Springs Breeders' Cup for 3-year-old fillies on Sept. 21; and the Grade 3, $200,000 Honey Bee Handicap Nov. 2 for 3-year-old fillies on the main track.

After the Labor Day card, racing will resume Thursday night and run through Saturday. The regular Tuesday-through-Saturday schedule, with Sundays and Mondays dark, will begin the following week.