12/12/2002 1:00AM

Gold Cup becomes $750,000 fall stakes


The Hawthorne Gold Cup next year will return to its traditional slot in the fall and the value of the Grade 2 stakes will increase from $500,000 to $750,000, making it one of the richest preps for the Breeders' Cup Classic.

The Hawthorne Gold Cup, scheduled for Sept. 28, is the richest of 13 stakes that will be offered at Hawthorne during its 2003 fall meet, which runs from Sept. 28 through Dec. 31 The stakes schedule was released by Hawthorne Race Course Thursday.

The Hawthorne Gold Cup, for 3-year-olds and up at 1 1/4 miles, has been run in May the last several years because Hawthorne's meet was split into spring and late fall sessions, a result of the Illinois Racing Board honoring Arlington Park's request to run into October in order to prepare and host the Breeders' Cup.

Other highlights of the fall meet include the Grade 3 Hawthorne Derby on Oct. 18, the Grade 3 Robert F. Carey Memorial on Nov. 1, and the Illinois Festival of Racing, a series of six $100,000 stakes for Illinois-breds on Nov. 8.

The Sportsman's-at-Hawthorne stakes schedule also was released, with the Grade 2, $500,000 Illinois Derby on April 5 the highlight of that meet, which runs from March 1 through May 8.

This will be the first Sportsman's meet conducted at Hawthorne under a merger agreement signed earlier this year by the National Jockey Club, the operators of Sportsman's Park, and Hawthorne management. There will be no racing at Sportsman's next year.

In addition to the Illinois Derby, other major stakes are the Grade 3 National Jockey Club Handicap on April 19 and the Grade 3 Sixty Sails Handicap on April 26. Several stakes, including the Chicago Breeders' Cup, were discontinued for the 2003 meet because of an expected reduction in a purse subsidy from the state.

No decision has been made whether another $1 million bonus will be offered should a horse win both the Illinois Derby and the Kentucky Derby. War Emblem earned a $1 million bonus by winning both races last spring.