09/28/2004 11:00PM

Cash flowing again

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Ryan McAlinden/Equi-Photos
Where We Left Off, here winning the Grade 3 Matchmaker, heads one of two turf stakes on Friday's card.

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - An enhanced purse structure and a revived stakes schedule should pump life back into The Meadowlands meet that begins Friday night.

"We expect to see a lot of horses and horsemen from New York," said Bob Kulina, the track's vice president for Thoroughbred racing. "Our purses will be the best in years."

The track will offer $300,000 per night, a $100,000 increase over 2003. A budget crunch last year trimmed purses and forced the cancellation of every graded stakes except The Meadowlands Cup.

"When we've had a strong purse structure in the past, we've seen a lot of shippers and a lot of riders from throughout the region," said Kulina. "It should make for a good betting product."

An $86 million agreement with the New Jersey casino industry hammered out in the spring provided supplements that restored the purses to a more competitive level.

It also revived the Big M's graded stakes, starting with the Grade 3, $300,000 Pegasus Stakes for 3-year-olds on the opening night card.

The Meadowlands meet runs through Nov. 13. The track will run Wednesday through Saturday nights at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday matinees go at 1:10 p.m.

For the second straight season, no horses will be stabled at The Meadowlands. New Jersey-based horses will continue to train at Monmouth Park and will ship to The Meadowlands on raceday.

Two turf stakes on opening night

One of The Meadowlands's prize assets is a pristine turf course. The fresh grass will get an immediate workout with the two opening-night supporting stakes on the grass.

The $60,000 Navajo Princess is at 1 1/16 miles for fillies and mares, while the $55,000 World Appeal goes at one mile and 70 yards for 2-year-olds.

Where We Left Off should be a very solid favorite in the Navajo Princess, as the 4-year-old filly drops out of graded stakes.

Trained by Christophe Clement, Where We Left Off has won 4 of 6 starts this year. She won the Grade 3 Matchmaker Stakes at Monmouth Park in early August and followed that with a second-place finish in a division of the Grade 3 Glens Falls Handicap at Saratoga.

She will be reunited with Joe Bravo, who guided her to an allowance victory at Gulfstream Park in April.

Other contenders include With Patience, winner of the Voodoo Dancer Stakes at Belmont last time out; Delta Princess who rallied for fourth in the Grade 3 Ballston Spa Breeders' Cup Handicap at Saratoga; and Coney Kitty who captured the Omnibus Stakes at Monmouth.

Better Than Ever will be looking for a cleaner trip in the World Appeal. The colt, trained by Ned Allard, had to steady in the late stages of the Continental Mile at Monmouth where he ran fourth. That was his turf debut, and he showed a dramatic improvement in his Beyer Speed Figure. Better Than Ever earned a Beyer Figure of 74 after he had topped out at 56 in his three dirt starts.

Bravo doubling up

Joe Bravo, fresh from a 10th Monmouth Park riding title, will pull double duty this fall at Belmont Park in the afternoon and The Meadowlands at night.

Bravo plans to make it easier on himself this year by taking a Manhattan apartment. In the past, Bravo commuted to New York from the Jersey Shore.

"I will be at The Meadowlands on opening night, and my plans are to ride Belmont during the day and heading over to The Meadowlands at night," said Bravo. "By staying in Manhattan, I'll be close to both places instead of having to travel so much."

Bravo said the more central location should produce positive results at both tracks

"I'm about midway to both places," said Bravo. "I'm going to try and win as many races as I can in that month and a half."

Bravo will be aiming for his ninth Meadowlands title. He has not been top rider here since 2000. Bravo's meet was cut short last year when he suffered a broken thoracic vertebra on opening night.

Chuckie Lopez, sidelined this meet with a shoulder injury, won last year's title. Eddie King took top honors in 2002 and Julian Pimentel was the leader in 2001.

At a glance: Meadowlands

RACING SCHEDULE: 33 days; Friday through Nov. 13; dark Sundays and Mondays, except Columbus Day, Oct. 11 [1:10 p.m. post].

POST TIME: 1:10 p.m. on Tuesdays and Columbus Day; 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays.

HIGHLIGHTS:

DATERACEGRADEPURSE
Oct. 1Pegasus Stakes3$300,000
Oct. 8Meadowlands BC Stakes2500,000
Oct. 15Cliff Hanger Handicap3200,000
Oct. 22Violet Handicap3200,000

ADMISSIONS: Grandstand, $1; clubhouse, $3; Pegasus, $5.

PARKING: General, free; valet, $5

LOCATION: East Rutherford, N.J.; New Jersey Turnpike Exit 16W or via Garden State Parkway to Route 3

SIMULCASTING: Day and Night, Monday through Saturday. No simulcasts on Sundays with the exceptions of Oct. 3 and Oct. 31.

PHONE: (201) 843-2446

INTERNET: www.thebigm.com