03/17/2011 2:14PM

Wood purse gets boost to $1 million from casino company

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OZONE PARK, N.Y. – The New York Racing Association on Thursday found a pot of gold from Genting New York, which announced it will sponsor this year’s Wood Memorial and raise the purse to $1 million from $750,000. The Wood, scheduled to feature the undefeated 2-year-old champion Uncle Mo, will be run on April 9 over Aqueduct’s main track.

“Mo was going there whether it was $500,000, $750,000 or a million,” said Mike Repole, owner of Uncle Mo.

Genting New York is the company that is constructing a 4,525 slots-only casino at Aqueduct, which will be called Resorts World New York. The Wood, New York’s final prep for the May 7 Kentucky Derby, has been renamed the Resorts World New York Casino Wood Memorial.

Also on Thursday, Genting announced that the first phase of the casino – which will include 2,500 slot machines – will open in late summer, presumably late August or early September, with the remaining 2,025 machines being installed by year’s end.

The Wood Memorial’s purse is now on par with that of the Louisiana Derby, Florida Derby, Santa Anita Derby, and Arkansas Derby – which were all previously announced at $1 million.

“We are honored to be a part of this historic race that has been a staple of Queens for decades,” Mike Speller, president of Genting New York, said in a press release. “From the beginning, one of our goals in building the new casino facility at Aqueduct has been to strengthen and support New York’s storied horse racing industry. Through this partnership with NYRA, we have taken a significant step in that direction.”

“We’re thrilled with Genting’s participation to bring the Wood Memorial to the same purse level as the prestigious Travers Stakes, and this should reaffirm its position as one of the leading steppingstones to the Triple Crown,” said Charles Hayward, NYRA’s president and CEO.

Earlier in the day, Genting announced an accelerated schedule for the opening of Resorts World New York, completing the project in two phases instead of three. Though the grand opening is later than originally hoped – the initial target date was having 1,600 machines installed by Memorial Day – the completion of the installation of all the machines is ahead of schedule.

In addition to being able to operate 2,500 machines, the first phase of the project will include the completion of a new main entry, the porte cochere, an international buffet, and a parking garage. Also expected to be completed in phase 1 is the building of a skybridge connecting the subway station to the casino entrance. Other elements to be completed in phase 1 include a seven-outlet food court, a new bar and entertainment space, and a grab-and-go food outlet.

Phase 2 of the project, which is slated to be completed in spring 2012, will include the other 2,000 slots, two fine dining restaurants, an additional grab-and-go food outlet, a new lounge, and the VIP Crockfords Casino.

“We’re just pleased with the progress that they’re making,” Hayward said. “This has been a complicated project, as you know. We’re very encouraged by the progress that they’re making. We’re encouraged that they’re informing the public what they’re doing. It confirms we can hold our purse structure at the same level as last year and hopefully we have some optimism for a purse increase next year.”