12/12/2007 12:00AM

Purses move both up and down

EmailOZONE PARK, N.Y. - Purses at Aqueduct for the first three months of 2008 will be about 10 percent higher than they were over the corresponding period last year, but will be slightly less than they currently are, according to New York Racing Association officials.

Entering the Aqueduct fall meet in October, NYRA kept intact a 12 percent purse increase it started in early July at Belmont. That period included the first month of the inner track meet, which began Nov. 28.

Beginning Jan. 1, however, those purses will be slightly lower. For example, an open maiden race going long that carried a purse of $53,000 in December will be worth $49,000 staring New Year's Day. The same race over the inner track at the beginning of the year was $44,000. An open maiden race going short is now worth $48,000 compared with $52,000 in the first condition book. That race run at the start of 2007 was worth $43,000.

According to NYRA president and CEO Charles Hayward, all open races during the first three months of 2008 will be worth $5,000 more than they were for the first three months of 2007 while all New York-bred races will be worth $3,000 more than they were over the same period last year.

"We're taking the January, February, and March purses up 10 percent from last year," Hayward said. "We're being a little more cautious for Aqueduct winter. The horses are generally cheaper, so we don't think they should run for the same level. A 10 percent increase is more substantial than almost any circuit's doing right now."

Hayward intends to restore the previous increases when the outer track opens at the end of March.

Tap Gold points to Ladies Handicap

It is expected that the Ladies Handicap, which failed to fill last year, will be run Saturday. None of the 16 nominated fillies and mares has been successful at the Ladies distance of 1 1/4 miles, but Tap Gold certainly appears to have the breeding to run that far.

Tap Gold is a daughter of Pleasant Tap out of the Seeking the Gold mare Color of Gold. Tap Gold, trained by Mark Hennig, is coming off a fourth-place finish in the Revidere Stakes run over a sloppy Monmouth Park surface on Oct. 25. Two back, she finished second in the Long Look Handicap at the Meadowlands.

"Considering it was the Meadowlands, it was a good race," Hennig said. "She doesn't handle things that well mentally sometimes. She was a little bit angry at the gate. We've been schooling her."

Tap Gold missed the majority of her 3-year-old season after flipping over and injuring herself. Her injuries included a punctured lung, Hennig said.

"She got very, very sick," he said. "We almost lost her."

Trainer Graham Motion is pointing both Bondage and Cryptoquip to the Ladies. Trainer Shug McGaughey is expected to run either Altesse or Inda, while Wow Me Free, fourth in the 1 1/4-mile Maple Leaf Stakes at Woodbine, will make her first start for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin.

Park Avenue Ball retired

Park Avenue Ball, a New Jersey-bred who won graded stakes at 2, 3, and 4 and earned more than $1 million, has been retired from racing, his connections announced Wednesday.

Park Avenue Ball was being pointed to Sunday's Grade 3 Gravesend Handicap, but following a slow five-furlong workout in 1:06 on Tuesday at Belmont, the decision was made by owner Marianne Hesse to stop on the 5-year-old son of Citidancer.

"He left us with some questions as if continuing on was the right thing to do," trainer Jim Ryerson said. "He didn't seem himself since that last race. He started to show some wear and tear from his campaign. Marianne decided in the best interest of the horse not to press on anymore and I think that was the right call."

Park Avenue Ball finished with a career record of 7 wins, 7 seconds, and 2 thirds from 25 career starts. He earned $1,049,360. At 2, he won the Grade 2 Futurity at Belmont. At 3, Park Avenue Ball won the Grade 2 Long Branch and at 4 he won the Grade 3 Iselin Breeders' Cup Handicap. Park Avenue Ball went 0 for 7 this year, finishing second in the Grade 2 Richter Scale Breeders' Cup Handicap at Gulfstream.

"He was always very competitive at that second level,'' Ryerson said. "For three straight years, he had won a graded stakes."

Park Avenue Ball joined Saint Anddan as Gravesend nominees who have been retired.

Among those expected to run in the Gravesend are the undefeated New York-bred Ferocious Fires, Gold and Roses, Joey P., P.oKerney, and possibly Santana Strings.

53 winning pick-six tickets sold

There were 53 winning tickets sold on Wednesday's pick six at Aqueduct, each returning $12,922. There were 1,150 consolation tickets each worth $138.50.

There was a two-day carryover of $205,698 entering the card and an additional $851,947 was bet into the pool Wednesday.

The winning sequence of 8-2-7-2-2-7 consisted of Lion's Maddy ($16), Ricardo A ($6.20), Bomber D Back ($9), Dr W ($7.50), Grand Minstrel ($6.60), and Wishful Tomcat ($5).

Grand Minstrel, under Eibar Coa, won the $76,750 Capote Stakes for 2-year-olds by five lengths, running six furlongs in 1:10.65. There were no anxious moments for those who backed Wishful Tomcat in the nightcap as he won a mile-and-70-yard maiden race by 17 3/4 lengths.

* Barrier Reef, the Darley Stable-owned 2-year-old who overcame a difficult trip to win a maiden race Saturday, will remain in the United States with trainer Tom Albertrani and will be pointed to the $75,000 Count Fleet Stakes here Jan. 5.