02/21/2003 1:00AM

Delaware Cap, Oaks get purse boosts


Delaware Park's two most prestigious stakes will get significant purse boosts this season.

The Delaware Handicap at 1 1/4 miles for fillies and mares, which will be run for the 66th time on July 20, has been upgraded to Grade 2 status and will now be worth $750,000, an increase of $150,000.

The purse for the Grade 3 Delaware Oaks for 3-year-old fillies has been doubled to $500,000.

Those two stakes are the centerpieces the Delaware Handicap Festival of Racing weekend, July 19-20, in which the track will run six stakes worth approximately $1.85 million.

The Del 'Cap undercard includes the Grade 3, $250,000 Kent Breeders' Cup for 3-year-olds on the turf and the $100,000 Light Hearted Stakes for filly and mare sprinters.

The Oaks card on July 19 will be supported by the $150,000 Robert G. Dick Memorial Breeders' Cup for fillies and mares on turf and the $100,000 R.R.M. Carpenter Jr. Memorial for older male horses on the main track.

In addition to the Delaware Handicap and Delaware Oaks, the Grade 3 Endine Stakes for fillies and mares was boosted $50,000 to $200,000. Three other stakes - the Go for Wand, Light Hearted, and Vincent A. Moscarelli Memorial - received $25,000 increases to $100,000 apiece.

Two stakes Delaware Park sponsors in conjunction with the National Association of Thoroughbred 2-Year-Old Consignors, the Sorority and Futurity, will be worth an estimated $300,000 apiece, an increase of $100,000 per race.

Overall, Delaware has scheduled 30 stakes, down from the 37 stakes it hosted last season. Among the casualties are two of the track's oldest stakes, the $100,000 Christiana for 3-year-old turf fillies, which had been run 45 times since 1945, and the $100,000 Wilmington for older male sprinters, which was contested 33 times since 1945.

The 142-day meet will open April 26 and continue Saturdays through Wednesdays until Nov. 9.