01/31/2003 1:00AM

Record total Calder stakes purses


MIAMI - Buoyed by the success of its 2002 stakes season, Calder Race Course has upped the ante for the 2003 Calder and Tropical meetings, both of which will offer record total stakes purses.

The 128-day Calder meet begins on April 25 and will feature $5.7 million in stakes topped by the $1.7 million Summit of Speed July 12 and the $1.55 million Festival of the Sun Oct. 11.

The Summit of Speed has fast become one of the premier days on the national stakes calendar. Purses for the four main events on the Summit of Speed card have been raised. The Grade 2 Princess Rooney and Grade 3 Smile Sprint handicaps will now be worth $500,000 apiece with the Grade 3 Azalea Breeders' Cup and Grade 3 Carry Back stakes at $300,000 each. The Smile, won last year by Eclipse champion Orientate, has been graded for the first time.

The Festival of the Sun features the finales of the Florida Stallion Stakes, the In Realty and My Dear Girl Stakes.

The 53-day Tropical meet, which begins on Oct. 25 (Breeders' Cup Day), offers a record $2.8 million in purses and features three multi-stakes days: The Florida Million on Nov. 15, Grand Slam I on Dec. 13, and Grand Slam II on Dec. 27. The Grade 2 W.L. McKnight and La Prevoyante handicaps again are the highlights of the meet.