04/10/2002 12:00AM

A brighter scenario at Fairmount

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COLLINSVILLE, Ill. - Fairmount Park, which begins a 110-day meeting on Friday, did not have an easy go of it in 2001.

Much of last year was spent locked in a heated legal battle against Illinois Standardbred horsemen that started in circuit court, went to the state legislature, and finally ended in August when Gov. George Ryan signed a bill into law that allows Fairmount to keep 80 percent of the revenue generated by night simulcasting. The remaining 20 percent goes to Standardbred interests in the state.

While the court battle with the Standardbred horsemen was under way, purses at Fairmount suffered.

Now that Fairmount's legal difficulties have been resolved, there is reason for optimism. Fairmount's purse distribution will be about $75,000 per day, with the bottom purse at $4,400 and maiden special weights races worth $7,000.

In addition, Illinois Stakes Day, which was inaugurated last year after the simulcasting bill was signed into law, is scheduled for Oct. 9, with six $35,000 statebred races scheduled. Fairmount has also resurrected its open stakes schedule with 10 races worth $25,000 apiece to be run during the meet.

Racing secretary Bobby Pace said all the stalls have been filled and two new trainers will be bringing stables to Fairmount - Randy Goodman and Mike Hewitt.

Improvements to the racing plant itself include a $1.5 million renovation of the first floor clubhouse, which will now be mainly for simulcast wagering, as well as improvements to the mezzanine. In addition, the old racing strip has been taken up and replaced with a surface that has a higher clay content.

Racing will be conducted on Friday and Saturdays beginning at 7:30 p.m. and on Sundays and Tuesdays at 1 p.m. The meet runs through Oct. 19.