06/14/2006 12:00AM

Pennsylvania Derby off


Management at Philadelphia Park has opted to cancel the Grade 2 Pennsylvania Derby this year because of planned construction of a temporary slots parlor in the track's grandstand.

Construction has already begun, and the first two floors - which are expected to house a minimum of 1,250 machines come November - figure to be a full-blown construction site with limited access come Labor Day, the traditional date of the Pennsylvania Derby.

"After reviewing all of our options, for the safety and comfort of our patrons, we simply felt the most prudent thing to do would be to cancel the race," Hal Handel, Philadelphia Park's CEO, said in a press release. "With the facility extremely limited because of all of the construction, we felt that we could not comfortably handle the kind of crowds that we expect here on Labor Day."

In a telephone interview, Handel said plans call for the Pennsylvania Derby to return next year with a $1 million purse. The race, which had carried a purse of $750,000 in recent years, would remain scheduled for Labor Day.

Handel said construction crews are already moving televisions and furniture from the first floor to third floor. Handel said that sometime next month, racing patrons would be permanently moved to the third floor.

Handel said that management briefly considered moving the Pennsylvania Derby to October, but that a race restricted to 3-year-olds that late in the season "really doesn't serve a purpose."

Handel said Philadelphia Park would still run the Grade 2 Cotillion Handicap in October.