04/14/2004 12:00AM

First meeting of gaming era begins

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Finger Lakes ushers in a new era Friday when the doors open for the 43rd race meet at the western New York track.

A 28,000-square-foot gaming area, built at the cost of $10.5 million, opened in February, and revenue from the 1,010 video lottery terminals will allow for purse increases to overnight races and stakes at the 160-day meet. The facility has been renamed Finger Lakes Gaming and Racetrack.

Seventeen stakes, worth a total of $1,065,000 - a 33 percent increase over 2003 - will be featured at the meet, which runs through Nov. 23. Stakes that previously were worth $35,000 and $40,000 are now $50,000. Other improvements in the stakes schedule include the addition of an open stakes, the $50,000 Finger Lakes Juvenile Fillies on Oct. 23. The $50,000 Finger Lakes Juvenile on Oct. 2 has been changed from a restricted event to an open stakes.

The highlight of the stakes schedule is the $150,000 New York Derby, the second leg of OTBs' Big Apple Triple for 3-year-old New York-breds, on July 17. The race's purse was raised by $25,000 from last year.

Joe Colasacco, an official at Finger Lakes since 1977 and the assistant racing secretary for the past 15 years, is the track's new racing secretary.

Overnight purses at the meet were boosted by 35 percent. The feature of the nine-race opening-day card is a $16,500 open allowance for fillies and mares, 3-year-olds and up. The probable favorite in the 4 1/2-furlong race is Hostility, who won an allowance race by 5 1/4 lengths at Charles Town in her last start. Trained by Samuel Keyrouze, Hostility tops the field in earnings with $187,000.

New faces at the meet will include jockeys Travis Wales and Roberto Villafan. Wales previously rode at the Downs at Albuquerque in New Mexico, where he finished fourth in the standings at the 2003 spring meet.

Trainer Myra Mora will have a stable at Finger Lakes for the first time. Mora, who usually spends the summer at Calder, will bring 20 horses to Finger Lakes.

Familiar faces include John Davila Jr., who won the last two riding titles at Finger Lakes, and Chris Englehart, who won last year's training title, denying Michael S. Ferraro his seventh consecutive title.

The gaming area is open daily from 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. Post time for the opener is 12:50 p.m., and the first 3,000 fans through the doors will receive a Finger Lakes hat.