08/26/2003 11:00PM

Meadowlands loses stakes fixtures

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OCEANPORT, N.J. - Say farewell to some old, familiar New Jersey stakes races.

Longtime Meadowlands Racetrack handicap fixtures such as the Pegasus, the Cliff Hanger, and the Boiling Springs will not be offered this year, and the savings will be reallocated to overnight purses.

"In an effort to ensure the highest possible overnight purses, we've dropped a few graded stakes from this year's Meadowlands schedule," said Bob Kulina, vice president of Thoroughbred racing for the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority. "It's imperative for our horsemen to be able to compete for the most money possible. Through stakes schedule management, we'll be able to ensure that."

The entire New Jersey racing calendar underwent a radical revision this year. Monmouth Park, which traditionally ran from the Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day, offers an extended season through Sept. 28.

The NJSEA had guaranteed overnight purses of $300,000 a day for the traditional Memorial Day to Labor Day portion of the meet. The local horsemen's association and the NJSEA recently reached an agreement to lower the guarantee to $250,000 for September. Negotiations about Meadowlands purses continue, with the two sides striving to reach $200,000 per night.

Those purse levels come at the expense of the stakes program.

The Meadowlands, offering the shortest Thoroughbred meet in track history, runs Oct. 2 to Nov. 8. It will present only two graded stakes: the Grade 2, $400,000 Meadowlands Cup on Oct. 3, and the Grade 3, $150,000 Violet Handicap for fillies and mares on the turf on Oct. 17.

The NJSEA will fill the stakes gap at Monmouth and The Meadowlands with overnight stakes.

Monmouth will offer 15 overnight stakes worth $740,000 during September, with the New Jersey Thoroughbred Festival on Sept. 20 as the main attraction.

The New Jersey Thoroughbred Festival marks the first time New Jersey-bred races make up an entire card. The day includes a trio of $45,000 handicaps: the Friendly Lover, the Slady Castle, and the William A. Purdey.

Eight set for 50th Sorority

A field of eight, topped by Fashion Girl and Feline Story, appears likely for the 50th running of Grade 3, $100,000 Sorority Stakes on Saturday.

The Sorority, for 2-year-old fillies at six furlongs, is the final graded stakes at Monmouth this season.

Fashion Girl, trained by D. Wayne Lukas, puts a two-race winning streak on the line. She captured the Colleen Stakes, Monmouth's traditional Sorority prep, via disqualification.

Feline Story won the Astoria Stakes at Belmont Park for trainer Stanley Hough and followed that effort with a fourth-place finish in the Grade 2 Schuylerville Stakes at Saratoga.

Other expected runners include Capeside Lady and Stand on Top, winners of New York-bred maiden special races at Saratoga; Foolishly, who won at first asking at Delaware Park; Private Gayla, who posted wins at Delaware and Laurel; the experienced Standswithafist, who has already run six times and won her last two; and Whirlwind Charlott, who closed from far back to get third in the Colleen.

China Grind in first start since 2001

It has been a long time between starts for China Grind.

The 4-year-old son of Grindstone makes only his second start in Friday's Monmouth feature, a $37,000 allowance race.

China Grind won his debut at Hollywood Park on Dec. 15, 2001, and has not been to the races since.

Joe Bravo, the meet's top rider, will be aboard for trainer Wesley Ward.

China Grind faces seven rivals in his comeback, with Courting Concorde the most dangerous. Courting Concorde, who has excellent early speed, has a win and two seconds in his last three starts. Chuck Lopez rides for trainer Frank Generazio.

Wild Snitch on the mend

Wild Snitch continues to recover from surgery to repair a condylar fracture of the right foreleg suffered Saturday during the running of the Miss Woodford Stakes.

"She's not out of the woods yet," trainer Ben Perkins said of the 2002 Sorority winner. "So far it looks good. We're all rooting for her."

Saucy Cat declared ineligible

The Monmouth stewards declared Saucy Cat ineligible to run in Wednesday's sixth race. The gelding was claimed for $16,000 at the Pleasanton Fair on June 28.

Even though the Pleasanton meet ended July 6, Saucy Cat remains obligated to race in California through the conclusion of the fair season in October. The one exception: He can race anywhere in a stakes race.

- Trainer Bill Perry won his first race of the year Wednesday when Steve's Escape ($26) prevailed in the third race. Perry had gone 59 starts without a victory.