01/29/2009 1:00AM

Delaware cuts 12 stakes, purses


There will be fewer stakes and less purse money available for top-class horses at Delaware Park this season.

The 2009 stakes schedule released Thursday contains 12 fewer stakes than a year ago. In addition, 10 other stakes sustained purse cuts, including the Grade 2 Delaware Oaks, as part of a reduction in stakes purses from $4.3 million to $3.1 million.

John Mooney, the track's executive director of racing, said with slots revenue and handle declining, Delaware had to eliminate some smaller stakes and reduce the purses of others in order to protect the overnight purse structure. Mooney said the track will begin this season averaging about $200,000 in overnight daily purses.

"We will be beefing up our claiming and allowance categories," he said.

Overall, there are 20 stakes this year. As a result of the reduction from 32 stakes a year ago, there will be only one stakes during the first six weeks of the meet, the $75,000 Vincent Moscarelli on opening day, April 25.

The purses for the Oaks and the Grade 3 Kent Breeders' Cup have been cut in half from $500,000 to $250,000. Two other Grade 3 events, the Barbaro and the Robert Dick Stakes, also took significant purse cuts. The Barbaro was reduced from $300,000 to $150,000. The Dick, formerly a $300,000 race, will now be worth $200,000.

The two biggest stakes dropped from the schedule are the $200,000 Cesar Rodney, a 1 1/8-mile turf race, and the $100,000 Go for Wand for 3-year-old fillies.

The track did manage to retain its biggest weekend of the season, the Delaware Handicap Festival of Racing, by amending its previously released live racing schedule to include Sunday racing in July.

As a result, the $1 million Delaware Handicap on July 19 will anchor a card that includes the Barbaro and the Light Hearted Stakes, a turf race for fillies and mares that has been lengthened from five furlongs to 7 1/2 furlongs.

The Oaks card on July 18 also includes the Dick and the $100,000 R.R.M. Carpenter Jr. Memorial Stakes.