01/11/2002 1:00AM

Statebred day set for December

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The inaugural Great State Challenge, the new six-race event designed for the top horses of statebred programs, will be run on Dec. 7 this year, the National Thoroughbred Racing Association announced.

The NTRA had already selected Sam Houston Race Park in Houston, Texas, to host the inaugural event. Organizers said the Dec. 7 date was selected because of mild weather in Houston at that time of year and because most states hold their statebred championships in October, so a December date avoids many potential overlaps in scheduling.

Each of the six races will be worth $150,000 guaranteed, although an additional $50,000 will be available for Breeders' Cup-nominated horses. State breeding programs will also pay out as much as $50,000 per race based on the finish positions of the horses representing their states.

Participation in the races will be limited to states in which the representative horsemen's association is an NTRA member. Eight states - California, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, and Texas - will have a guaranteed spot in each race, because those state's horsemen's associations pay the most in dues.