Sportsman's Park will offer a $1-million bonus for any horse that wins next year's $500,000 Illinois Derby and then goes on to win any Triple Crown race in the subsequent months. The Illinois track released its $2.1-million stakes schedule Tuesday.
The offer is in addition to a $2.1-million stakes program approved Tuesday by the Illinois Racing Board for the 2002 meet at Sportsman's Park. The session will run from March 1-May 4.
IRB chairman Ralph Gonzalez said the bonus for the April 6 Illinois Derby, a grade II event, "is a great idea. It should generate a lot of excitement" leading up the Triple Crown.
National Jockey Club president Charles W. Bidwill III said the racetrack has "every confidence that we are creating a strong incentive for owners and trainers who are serious about the best opportunities available for their 3-year-olds leading up to the spring classics."
The 2002 stakes schedule also includes purse improvements for the six state-bred stakes on Illinois Champions Day, March 30. Each of the races will have a $75,000 purse plus $25,000 from the state breeders' fund that will be paid only to horses both conceived and foaled in Illinois. Any of the supplemental money not distributed in 2002 will be carried over to the following year.
Joe Kasperski, president of the Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, said the decision to reserve a $25,000 supplement for horses conceived and bred in Illinois "will become a tremendous incentive for the breeding industry. The year-to-year carryover feature has the potential to create some big purse paydays and some added excitement."
The 2002 Sportsman's Park stakes schedule also includes the grade III, $300,000 Sixty Sails Handicap for fillies and mares at 1 1/8 miles April 28, and the grade III, $200,000 National Jockey Club Handicap for 4-year-olds and up at 1 1/8 miles April 20.