05/02/2002 11:00PM

Purse increases leave New York-breds $2,000 behind

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JAMAICA, N.Y. - With the start of Belmont Park's spring/summer meet on Wednesday, the New York Racing Association has bumped up the purses of open maiden races and open allowance races by $2,000 each. Claiming races and New York-bred races are not included in the purse increase.

The move by NYRA to exclude New York-breds from the purse expansion was met with disappointment by the New York Thoroughbred Breeders, a nonprofit organization that represents 600-plus members who participate in the statebred racing and breeding program.

Dennis Brida, a former trainer who recently came on board with the NYTB in the role as executive director, said, "We voiced our concerns to NYRA that we didn't want to start a two-tier system, but we weren't successful. I don't think it's a crisis, but we're not happy with the result. We hope to have an ongoing dialogue with NYRA and to reestablish the quality of the purses for New York-breds."

NYRA said funds were limited and it wasn't possible to give an across-the-board purse increase, which has been the custom in the past. Six New York-bred races in Belmont Park's first condition book are affected.

"We only had so many dollars to go around," NYRA's president Terry Meyocks said. "We decided to increase the better races to stay competitive with other racing jurisdictions."

Gary Contessa, a leading New York trainer with a considerable number of New York-breds in his stable, said, "I can understand both sides of the coin."

Before the increase, open and New York-bred races carrying the same conditions had the same purse. For example, at Aqueduct's spring meet, which concludes Sunday, maiden 3-year-old fillies in sprint races competed for a purse of $41,000, the same money available to New York-breds running at that condition. Starting Wednesday, the identical open maiden race will carry a $43,000 purse, while the statebred race remains at $41,000. Similarly, a second-level allowance race for fillies and mares going short will offer a $47,000 purse at the Belmont meet, $2,000 more than the same race for New York-breds.

Meyocks said the purse increase was not intended as a slight against the New York-bred program and that NYRA is still committed to the program's growth.

"I think we have done pretty well by New York-breds the last four or five years," Meyocks. "We've increased the number of races we card and added races to the New York Stallion Series."

Originally a four-race series, the New York Stallion Series, which is restricted to the progeny of New York stallions, features six races this year, worth a total of $650,000. In 2003, two more races, valued at $250,000 apiece, will be added and two existing stakes will receive purse enhancements, bringing the purse total to $1.25 million

In addition to the Stallions Series, NYRA's 2002 stakes schedule includes 27 New York-bred stakes, worth $2.3 million.

Another perk NYRA has provided for New York-breds is the creation of a three-pound weight allowance for statebreds when they compete in open races, excluding stakes and handicaps, and the addition of restricted clauses in open allowance dirt races.

On top of NYRA's purse money, New York-breds are eligible for owner and breeder awards, distributed by the New York State Thoroughbred Breeding and Development Fund, on first- through fourth-place finishes in certain races.

* The owners of 78 stallions made the first of two payments on April 1 to make their stallion's 2003 foals eligible for the New York Stallion Series. The number of nominations represents an increase of 78 percent over 1999 when 45 sires were nominated.

Among the new stallion nominees are Phone Trick, City Zip, Regal Classic, and Rizzi.

* The next board of directors meeting for the New York State Thoroughbred Breeding and Development Fund is May 23 at 10:30 a.m. in the fund's New York City offices.