01/14/2004 1:00AM

New races, higher purses


Churchill Downs on Wednesday released revised and enriched stakes schedules for the 2004 spring and fall meets.

Purses for the 45 stakes will total a record $9,375,000, up from the estimated $8,575,000 paid out last year. Churchill officials recently announced the track will no longer host the $100,000 Hard Scuffle Steeplechase, but the new schedules include five new races and five races with increased purses.

The new races are the $100,000 Alysheba, a 1 1/16-mile race for older horses April 30; the $100,000 Open Mind, a five-furlong turf race for 3-year-old fillies May 15; the $100,000 Winning Colors, a six-furlong race for fillies and mares May 22; the $100,000 Opening Verse, a 1 1/16-mile turf race for 3-year-olds on the June 12 Stephen Foster undercard; and the lone addition to the fall meet, the $150,000 Commonwealth Turf, a 1 1/16-mile turf race for 3-year-olds Nov. 14.

"We've added some exciting new races that will increase the stakes options available to our horsemen," said Churchill racing secretary Doug Bredar.

The purse hikes went to the Humana Distaff, up $50,000 to $250,000; the Northern Dancer, doubled to $200,000; and the Fleur de Lis, up $100,000 to $400,000. Also, $50,000 Breeders' Cup supplements have been added to the Dogwood BC Stakes and Aristides BC Handicap.

Several races underwent purse decreases or distance changes. The Derby Trial is back to $100,000 after one year at $150,000, and the Kentucky BC Stakes is now worth $125,000, down $25,000. The La Troienne is now a sixteenth of a mile longer, at 7 1/2 furlongs; the Aristides BC is a sixteenth of a mile shorter, at six furlongs; and the Edgewood is a sixteenth of a mile longer, at 1 1/16 miles on turf.

As always, the highlights of the year will be the Kentucky Derby, to be run May 1, and the Kentucky Oaks, to be run April 30.

The spring meet runs April 24 to July 5, and the fall meet runs Oct. 31 to Nov. 27.