12/14/2001 12:00AM

Showcase one-day affair again

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The New York Racing Association has returned next year's New York Showcase Fall Festival to a one-day format. The biggest event of the year for New York-breds, the New York Showcase comprises seven stakes for statebreds, worth a total of $1 million.

As an experiment, the eighth annual New York Showcase was run over two days this year, on Oct. 20 and 21 at Belmont Park. NYRA's decision to turn the New York Showcase into a two-day event came in response to the needs of vendors who travel from all over the state for at the event. In 2000, the dozens of vendors who participated in the New York Showcase said it wasn't worth their while to come for just one day.

NYRA might have found a way to keep everyone happy with its 2002 scheduling of the Showcase, which was announced 10 days ago when NYRA released its stakes schedule. The races will be run on Oct. 19, the Saturday during closing weekend of Belmont's fall meet, and the vendors will be permitted to set up shop on Saturday and Sunday.

Bill Nader, who as senior vice president oversees the marketing department at NYRA, said business considerations and feedback from horsemen involved in the Showcase resulted in a return to a single-day format.

"We thought it would be better for the owners, breeders, and for the fans to focus on one day and make it a big championship day, instead of spreading it over two days," Nader said. "We considered some factors like the attendance, handle, and public perception. The feedback was pretty clear that people wanted one big day. I think it's a win-win situation for everybody, and weather permitting we could have a strong Saturday on that closing weekend."

This year, the Showcase was run the weekend before the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships, which was held during closing weekend of Belmont Park's fall meet on Oct. 27.

Attendance was solid for day one of the Showcase - 12,769 - but dropped to 8,725 for the second day despite glorious weather and the running of the $250,000 Empire Classic, the feature race of the Showcase.

The other Showcase stakes are the $150,000 Mohawk Handicap, $150,000 Ticonderoga, $125,000 Iroquois Handicap, $125,000 Hudson Handicap, $100,000 Sleepy Hollow, and $100,000 Maid of the Mist.

A total of $2.3 million in restricted stakes purses will be available to New York-breds on the NYRA circuit next year.

Also, six New York Stallion series races, worth a total of $650,000, are on the stakes roster. The Stallion series races are not restricted to New York-breds - eligible horses must be sired by a registered New York stallion who is nominated to the series. As a result, the majority of the participants are registered New York-breds.

There are purse increases to two races in the series for 2002. The Fifth Avenue and the Great White Way each received a purse enhancement of $25,000 and will be worth $125,000 apiece when they are run at Aqueduct next fall.

Other highlights on the New York-bred stakes calendar are the $100,000-added Mike Lee on June 29 at Belmont Park and the $150,000 Albany on Aug. 21 at Saratoga. These races are part of the Big Apple Triple for 3-year-old statebreds. The New York Derby, run at Finger Lakes in July, is the middle leg of the triple, which offers a $250,000 bonus to the owner of a horse who can sweep the three races.

Half-sister to Critical Eye retired

Critical Code, a half-sister to Grade 1 winner Critical Eye, has been retired because of injury and will be bred next year, according to her owner and trainer, Scott Schwartz.

Critical Code, an unraced daughter of Lost Code, will be bred to Personal Flag, who stands at McMahon of Saratoga Thoroughbreds in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. Critical Code is the third foal out of Critical Crew, who has turned out to be a strong producer for the Schwartz family.

Critical Crew's first foal, Critical Eye, is a two-time Grade 1-winning New York-bred, with more than $800,000 in the bank. Her second foal, Personable Pete, is stakes placed and has earnings of $131,905.

* With two weeks remaining in 2001, 18 registered New York-breds have combined to win 28 open stakes, compared to last year's final figures of 29 New York-breds accounting for 36 open stakes wins.