08/14/2001 11:00PM

Fairmount Park

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COLLINSVILLE, Ill. - The Illinois Racing Board last Thursday approved an extension of Fairmount's meet through Nov. 24. The action is the last step in what has been a year-long fight for the track to remain a full-time Thoroughbred facility. In addition, Fairmount has been able to raise purses up to

60 percent, giving horsemen more incentive to race their horses locally. Last month, a maiden special weight race carried a base purse of $4,000. Now it is worth $7,000. The bottom-level for $3,000 claimers has been raised from a $3,000 purse to $4,200.

Fairmount struggled throughout the 1990's with the proliferation of riverboat casinos in the area and at the end of 1999 decided to drop harness racing because the meet was no longer profitable.

Illinois state law, however, provided for all simulcasting revenue after 6:30 p.m. to go to harness racing purses and Fairmount needed that money for Thoroughbred purses. In late May the state legislature passed House Bill 1069, which provided for Fairmount to keep 80 percent of that revenue, and Gov. George Ryan signed the bill into law on Aug. 2. The night simulcasting revenue will bolster the purse fund sufficiently to allow for the meet to be extended.

Fairmount's meet will continue on the current three-day-week schedule, giving the track a total of 30 more racing days.