12/11/2002 12:00AM

NYRA revamps Triple Tiara - complete with $2M bonus


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - The New York Racing Association announced on Wednesday that it is revamping its Triple Tiara series - New York's triple crown for fillies - and will offer a $2 million bonus to any 3-year-old filly who can sweep the Mother Goose Stakes, the Coaching Club American Oaks, and the Alabama Stakes, all Grade 1 races. In effect, the Alabama replaces the one-mile Acorn Stakes in the series.

The Acorn will still be run as scheduled, on June 6, as part of a promotion linked to the next day's Belmont Stakes.

"Three-year-old fillies compete in the shadow of their male counterparts, and we think they deserve more appreciation than that," said Barry K. Schwartz, the Chairman and CEO of NYRA. "This is a great opportunity for them to earn both money and recognition. It is also part of our strategy to ensure the highest caliber of racing possible at our tracks for our fans."

The 1 1/8-mile Mother Goose starts the reconceived series on June 28 at Belmont Park. The race gets a $50,000 purse hike to $300,000, and will be televised nationally on CBS.

The Coaching Club American Oaks has gone back and forth from 10 to 12 furlongs in the last four decades, and will remain at 1 1/2 miles for the fifth straight year when it is run next year on July 19 at Belmont. The purse of the CCA Oaks, a race that has been bypassed by the connections of top 3-year-old fillies in recent years, has been raised from $350,000 up to $500,000.

The fillies will then be asked to turn back to 1 1/4 miles four weeks later for the $750,000 Alabama, which will be run at Saratoga on Aug. 16, and televised by ESPN.

"Winning all three races is a very difficult challenge, and one that deserves a significant reward," said Schwartz. "We believe ultimately that this will become the filly counterpart to the Triple Crown."

In the past, four fillies have won all three races included in the new series - Shuvee (1969), Mom's Command (1985), Open Mind (1989), and Sky Beauty (1993).

NYRA also announced pricing and packaging changes at Belmont Park.

Clubhouse admission at Belmont, which had been rolled back from $5 to $4 in 1995, will return to $5.

In addition, seats for the Belmont Stakes, Saturday, June 7, and for Acorn day, Friday June 6, will be sold as a package. First post on Friday, June 6, will be adjusted back to 1 p.m.

There will be no advance individual sale of Belmont Stakes Day reserved seats. Pricing for the two-day package of reserved seats for the Acorn and Belmont will be $7, $15, $25, and $40.

"Parking and admission prices remain the same on Belmont Day as they are every other day of the meet," noted Terry Meyocks, president of NYRA.

"And the reality is that the cost of seats is still below the price of regular-season professional sporting events in the metropolitan area, and significantly below the prices of tickets for post-season events."

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