08/27/2003 12:00AM

Purse for Clark raised to $500,000


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Stakes purses have been raised to record levels for the fall meet at Churchill Downs, with the most notable change an increase to $500,000-added for the signature race of the meet, the Grade 2 Clark Handicap.

The Clark, which may be the premier handicap race to follow the Breeders' Cup, was worth $457,200 last fall when it was conducted as a $400,000-added race and won by Lido Palace.

The 1 1/8-mile Clark, to be run Nov. 28, was a $100,000-added race as recently as 1992. The purse was doubled for the 1993 running, then doubled again to $400,000-added for the 1997 running.

Purses for two other fall stakes also have been raised. The Grade 3 Ack Ack Handicap, the traditional opening-day feature, will go from $100,000 to $150,000, and the Grade 2 Falls City, the traditional Thanksgiving Day feature, will go from $250,000 to $300,000. Total purses for the 11 stakes scheduled for the 27-day meet will exceed $2.2 million. All 11 stakes are added-money events.

Donnie Richardson, Churchill vice president for racing, said the increases for the Clark and Falls City "further strengthen our exciting Thanksgiving weekend stakes schedule, which we believe is the strongest stakes competition in North America in the weeks after" the Breeders' Cup.

The fall meet runs Oct. 26 to Nov. 29. It will be the first meet conducted at Churchill since the second phase of the track's massive renovation project began. The nearby Trackside simulcast annex will be open throughout the meet for customers looking to avoid inconveniences caused by the ongoing project.