08/08/2006 11:00PM

51-night meet breezes in

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Horsemen who spend time at Retama Park near San Antonio rave about the cool evening breezes that accompany the night racing. This year, there will be a few more nights to enjoy. Retama has added eight dates to its racing calendar for the meet that opens on Friday night. In all, the track will race 51 nights, through Nov. 4.

The expanded calendar enables Retama to benefit from the comfortable fall weather in the area, as well as race on Breeders' Cup Day. The longer meet is also appealing to horsemen, said Bob Pollock, the track's general manager.

"This year, we've had a lot of requests from owners and trainers to bring their stables here, and our barn area is full," Pollock said. "In my opinion, the extra eight days have probably enticed some people to come down here.

"I don't know if there's a magic 50-day number to make it a long meet or not, but I think it helped. People don't have to move as much. They're going to be here a little bit longer and have more opportunities to race here."

Retama received requests for more than the 1,234 stalls it has, said James Leatherman, racing secretary at the track. He said he feels good about the horsepower on hand at Retama.

"We had 119 horses work Saturday, and another 109 horses work on Sunday, so they're getting horses ready to run," said Leatherman.

It showed in the entries for Friday's opening-night card. There are 94 horses on the nine-race program, for an average of 10.4 runners in each field.

"I think our full fields are going to have our simulcast customers pleased," said Pollock.

Purses at Retama will average about $92,000 a day. The 15-race stakes program, worth a cumulative $1 million, is headed by the $100,000 El Joven and $100,000 La Senorita, a pair of one-mile turf stakes for 2-year-olds on Sept. 2.

"We're probably up a good 15 percent in nominations from last year," Leatherman said of the El Joven and La Senorita.

The richest card of the meet will be run Oct. 14, when six restricted stakes worth $470,000 will make up the annual Texas Hall of Fame Night. Last year, the card was run on Oct. 1. Retama is the home of the Texas Horse Racing Hall of Fame.

Retama was a leader in reducing takeouts on pick three wagers, and that 12 percent takeout rate will again be in effect this meet. The track will also offer 10-cent superfectas, and once again the minimum wager on all other bets is $1.

At a glance

RACING SCHEDULE: 51 nights; Friday through Nov. 4; racing on a Thursday through Sunday basis through Sept. 3, then Wednesday through Saturday through November.

POST TIME: 6:45 p.m. Central, except on Sundays, when first post is 5:30 p.m. There is a 5 p.m. post on Breeders' Cup Day, Nov. 4.

HIGHLIGHTS: $100,000 El Joven and $100,000 La Senorita, Sept. 2; Texas Hall of Fame Night, featuring six restricted stakes worth a cumulative $470,000, Oct. 14.

ADMISSIONS: General, $2.50

PARKING: General, $2

LOCATION: Located in northeast San Antonio, near the intersection of Interstate 35 and Loop 1604.

SIMULCASTING: Daily.

PHONE: (210) 651-7000

INTERNET: www.retamapark.com