03/19/2009 11:00PM

Calder stakes purses cut to bolster daily fare

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The 2009 Calder stakes schedule, which was announced Friday, reflects the struggling economy and downturn in business throughout the racing industry with purses reduced from recent years in an effort to help bolster the daily overnight racing program.

A total of 28 stakes worth $4,125,000 will be offered during the Calder meet that is tentatively scheduled to open on April 20 and which runs through Oct. 19. The original 2008 Calder stakes program listed 38 stakes valued at $6,340,000, although two of those races were canceled and several others had their purses reduced during the course of the meet.

The 2009 meet will again be highlighted by Calder's two cornerstone events, the Summit of Speed on Julyo11 and the Festival of the Sun on Oct. 17. Purses for all the Summit of Speed races have been reduced, with the Grade 1 Princess Rooney Handicap and the Grade 2 Smile Sprint both worth $350,000 this year. The races had offered purses of $500,000 from 2003 through 2007 before being slashed to $400,000 a year ago. Purses for the four graded races on the Summit of Speed card total $1.1 million, down from the original level of $1.6 million in 2008.

"We restructured this year's stakes program to strengthen our overnight racing in order to provide consistent quality opportunities for horsemen and fans during these uneasy times," said John Marshall, who will be serving his first year as vice president and general manager of racing at Calder.

The new stakes schedule was endorsed by the Florida Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association and the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders' and Owners' Association.

"This stakes schedule is attractive to both local horsemen and horsemen shipping in from around the country," said Sam Gordon, president of the horsemen's group. "Calder did a good job adjusting the racing program to withstand today's economic conditions."

One notable change in the schedule was moving the Grade 2 La Prevoyante for fillies and mare from its traditional spot in December during the Tropical at Calder meet to the opening weekend of the Calder session on April 25. The purse of the La Prevoyante has also been reduced to $150,000. Last year it was slated for $250,000, then trimmed to $200,000.

The Tropical at Calder stakes schedule will be released at a later date.