08/27/2003 12:00AM

Purses reduced at 70-day meeting

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Hoosier Park ushers in the Labor Day weekend Friday when the Anderson, Indiana, track opens for a 70-day meet that runs through Dec. 4.

The track has reduced some of its higher-end purses and will offer a bottom purse of $7,000 for open company races. Purses for Indiana-breds took the biggest hit with $10,000 shaved from the track's standard scale of maiden, nonwinners of two, and nonwinners of three, which this year will go for $12,000, $13,000, and $14,000, respectively.

"The other track, they inherited some of our money," said racing secretary Warren Groce, citing competition from Indiana Downs. "But we'll have the numbers. Last year we averaged 9.1 starters per race and we're limited to starting 10 horses in all but the stakes races."

Highlighted by the Grade 3, $400,000 Indiana Derby and the Grade 3, $300,000 Indiana Oaks, Hoosier Park will run 21 Thorougbhred stakes. The Oaks will be run on Friday, Oct. 3, with the derby set for the following night. Two supporting stakes races will be run on each card.

"We've gotten lucky in the derby and Oaks," Groce said. "Orientate won a couple years ago and Perfect Drift last year. They went on to be accomplished horses. We're working on it again for this year, and maybe we can achieve Grade 2 status."

With the exception of opening weekend - when racing will be held on a Friday through Monday schedule and the following Wednesday is dark - racing will be conducted on a Wednesday through Sunday schedule throughout the meet. The track has shifted from last year's Thursday through Monday schedule and expects the sale of its simulcast signal to benefit from the move. Hoosier Park's sale of its simulcast signal accounts for nearly 90 percent of handle generated on its races.

Post time is 6:10 p.m. daily except for Thanksgiving Day, when post time shifts to 11 a.m. There will be 11 races daily, with the exception of 12 days through the meet when Quarter Horse races will be added to the card.

Gary Patrick earned his first Hoosier Park training title last year and returns, along with the majority of leaders. Ralph Martinez, leading trainer at Fairmount Park, is a new addition and brings a good-sized stable, as does Canterbury Park's leading trainer Bernell Rhone.

Lester Knight ran off with the riders' title a year ago and heads a deep jockey colony that will include Terry Thompson, Rafael Bejarano, Orlando Mojica, and Tommy Pompell. Cindy Noll and Alex Birzer, second to Knight in last year's standings, will not return this year.

At a glance: Hoosier Park

RACING SCHEDULE: 70 days; Aug. 29 through Dec. 4; dark Mondays and Tuesdays except Labor Day (Sept. 1). No racing Sept. 3

POST TIME: 6:10 p.m. Central except Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 27, 11 a.m.

MEET HIGHLIGHTS Grade 3, $300,000-added Indiana Oaks, Oct. 3; Grade 3, $400,000 Indiana Derby, Oct. 4

ADMISSIONS: Clubhouse/Grandstand $2; Club seating $1 additional. Children 12 & under admitted free when accompanied by an adult

PARKING: Free; valet parking, $3.

LOCATION: 4500 Dan Patch Circle; Anderson, Indiana (exit 26 off Interstate 29 north of Indianapolis).

SIMULCASTING: Daily.

PHONE: (765) 642-RACE; (800) 526-RACE.

INTERNET: www.hoosierpark.com