Day At The Track

Horsemen jointly propose an innovative plan

08:46 PM 28 Jul 2009 NZST
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Three breed groups jointly proposed four programs of "Extreme Racing" and other changes to future racing schedules to the management of Prairie Meadows Racetrack and Casino on Monday. The Altoona, Iowa racetrack has proposed scaling back live horseracing -- and eliminating Standardbred racing after a 16-day meet in 2009 -- due to operating losses.

"The extreme racing is something no other track in the country is doing," Royal Roland, president of the Iowa Harness Horseman's Association, was quoted as saying in today's edition of theDes Moines Register. "We feel there are great marketing opportunities to increase the attendance and betting handle."

The plan includes four Sundays in 2010 that would feature Thoroughbred, Quarter Horse, and Standardbred racing on the same card, something not being done at any track in North America. The horsemen's proposed racing calendar would include:

A 35-day Thoroughbred-only meet, from April 16 to June 12; A 45-mixed meet of eight Thoroughbred and three Quarter Horse dashes each day, from June 14 to Aug. 28; A nine-day mixed meet of four Quarter Horse races and six harness races, from Aug. 30 to Sept. 11; Ten days of harness racing, only, from Sept. 13 through 28; and Four days of "extreme racing" on Sundays in August, consisting of three races, each, for Thoroughbreds, Quarter Horses, and Standardbreds.

Additionally, given the expense the racetrack incurs from changing the surface of its one-mile racetrack to accommodate harness racing each year, it was proposed that a seven-eighths mile Standardbred track be constructed inside the existing oval. The Standardbred horsemen said they would be willing to pay for the construction of the new surface by returning some of the $1 million the track pays towards Standardbred purses each year.

The management of Prairie Meadows took the proposal under advisement, and will seek advice from its consultant about potential costs and revenues.

"You have tried to find a solution, and we're going to take it seriously," Tom Whitney, chairman of Prairie Meadows' Racing Committee, was reported as saying.

John PAWLAK (the U.S. Trotting Association)

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