02/16/2009 12:00AM

Monmouth raises stakes purses

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Monmouth Park, one of the few tracks in the country to manage an increase in handle in 2008, responded by bumping up the purses for a half-dozen of its major stakes for this season.

"We bucked the national trend in seeing an increase in overall handle last year at Monmouth, and the stakes schedule we're putting forth this year will hopefully allow us to continue that momentum," said Bob Kulina, the track's vice president and general manager, in a statement announcing the 2009 stakes schedule released Monday.

As part of a $500,000 increase in stakes purses that will swell the stakes package to $4.7 million, excluding overnight stakes, the value of four Grade 3 races was raised $50,000 apiece.

As a result, the Oceanport and the Matchmaker, both supporting stakes on the Aug. 2 card for the $1 million Haskell Invitational, will be worth $200,000. So will the Jersey Shore on July 5 and the Monmouth Oaks on Aug. 15.

The Long Branch Stakes on July 11 and the Red Bank Stakes on Sept. 6 will have their purses bumped up by $25,000, to $175,000.

One graded race, the Grade 3 Salvator Mile, has been cut from $300,000 to $250,000.

The $200,000 Monmouth Stakes, a late addition to last year's schedule to lure Big Brown, has been retained. It will be contested on June 13 and serve as a prep for the Grade 1, $750,000 United Nations on July 4.