10/30/2003 12:00AM

Gotham goes later by a week in 2004


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - With the exception of the timing of the $200,000 Gotham, the 2004 Aqueduct winter-spring stakes program mirrors the 2003 schedule.

A total of 34 stakes worth $4.4 million will be offered during the 87 racing days from Jan. 1 through May 2. The only Grade 1 events offered during that period will be the $750,000 Wood Memorial, a major prep for the Kentucky Derby, and the $350,000 Carter Handicap for older male sprinters. Both races are scheduled for April 10.

The Grade 3, one-turn Gotham Mile, the traditional Wood Memorial prep, will be run March 20, making it three weeks prior to the Wood. The last few years, the Gotham has been run four weeks before the Wood. Last year, due to inclement weather, the Gotham was run over the inner track at a mile and 70 yards around two turns.

"We felt it would benefit the horsemen that are returning from Florida to have the Gotham moved back," said racing secretary Mike Lakow. "That would allow more horses to come back from the 3-year-old races in Florida and give them the chance to run the Gotham, and, hopefully, stretch out to the Wood Memorial and beyond. Plus, we felt it is safer, weather-wise, to move the Gotham to be sure it is run on the main track."

The purses for all stakes remained the same as in 2003 with the exception of the New York Stallion Stakes for 3-year-olds and 3-year-old fillies, which were each increased by $50,000.