03/07/2002 12:00AM

Prince of Wales gets purse boost

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TORONTO, Ontario - The Prince of Wales Stakes will offer a record purse of $500,000, up $150,000 from last year, as the centerpiece of this year's stakes schedule at Fort Erie.

The list of 21 stakes, including four $60,000 races that have been relocated from Woodbine, is worth a total of $19.3 million, an increase of $520,000 from last year.

The additional stakes funding comes from two sources: the horsemen's purse account, which has benefited from increases in handle and the ongoing success of the racetrack slots program, and the Ontario division of the Canadian Thoroughbred Horse Society's Thoroughbred Improvement Program, which also shares in the handle and slots revenue and supports Canadian-breds and Ontario-sired horses.

"I think we're getting bigger and better every year," said Pudge Brown, Fort Erie's director of racing and racing secretary. "We've been attracting a better-quality horse, and we're continuing to."

The Prince of Wales, the second jewel in Canada's Triple Crown, will be run July 21.

Fort Erie also plays host to the second leg of the Canadian Triple Tiara, the Labatt Bison City for Canadian-bred 3-year-old fillies. The purse for the Bison City, which will be run July 1, is $250,000.

The Prince of Wales was given the most substantial purse increase, but the purses for almost all of the stakes on the schedule have been upgraded.

The Rainbow Connection, a five-furlong turf race for Ontario-sired fillies and mares, which was run for the first time last year, has been upped by $25,000 to $125,000.

Fort Erie's dozen "in-house" stakes, restricted to horses who have started twice at the meeting, were worth $50,000 last year. The eight in-house stakes for Canadian-breds now will go for $60,000, with the four open in-house stakes worth $55,000.

The new stakes on the schedule, which all will be contested Sept. 24, are the Harry A. Hindmarsh, Harry J. Addison, and divisions of the Juvenile, one for colts and geldings and the other for fillies. The races are restricted to horses who went through the ring in one of the open yearling sales or 2-year-old in training sales at Woodbine.

Another new race on the schedule, the $55,000 Blazing Sevens, essentially replaces the discontinued Expedite Plus, which was worth $50,000.

The 118-day Fort Erie meeting will run from April 27 through Nov. 12. Racing will be conducted Saturdays through Mondays, with Tuesdays added beginning May 21 and selected Wednesdays in July and August. There also will be racing on Thursday, July 4.