06/08/2001 12:00AM

Sweeps highlights 100-date meeting

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SALEM, N.H. - Rockingham Park opens the doors on its 68th season of racing Sunday afternoon.

As the meeting begins, New Hampshire's Senate is hearing proposals to resolve an education funding crisis in the state. A bill calling for the installation of video lottery terminals at the Rock and the state's three other racetracks which would help fund education is expected to be introduced shortly. At the same time, members of the New England HBPA and Rockingham management are engaged in on-going contract negotiations.

There will be 14 stakes races run here before the meet closes Sept. 23. The lineup begins Saturday, June 23, with the meet's centerpiece, the Grade 3 New Hampshire Sweepstakes Handicap. The $200,000 race, New England's only graded turf stakes, will be run at nine furlongs.

Complementing the Sweeps is the Rock's turf stakes series for fillies and mares. The $75,000 Rockingham Breeders' Cup will be run at 1 1/16 miles on July 4. The $100,000 Spicy Living Sweepstakes Handicap will be decided at 1 1/8 miles on Sunday, August 5. The remaining 11 races in the series carry purses of $25,000.

Perfectas and trifectas will be offered on every race, but there will be no twin trifecta this year. Instead, superfectas have been added to the sixth, seventh, and eighth races. The superfectas on the fourth and final races remain.

Ron Dandy, Rockingham's leading trainer from last year, will be back to defend his title. This year he will find some competition new to the area, including Bruce Alexander, who ships in from New York, and several trainers who came in from Florida, including Miles Heinen and Linda Scocca.

Coors, which sponsors the Jockey of the Week series in which $6,000 is donated to The Jockeys' Guild Disabled Riders Fund, is now a co-sponsor of the Rock's handicapping contest and has added $1,000 to the prize fund. The handicapping contest begins Aug. 18.

Racing during the 100-date meeting will be run on a five-day-a-week schedule, with Tuesdays and Thursdays dark. Post time is 1 p.m. Eastern every day except Fridays when programs begin at 7:30 p.m. There will be 10 races on Saturday and Sunday and nine races during the week.