05/24/2012 12:58PM

Arapahoe: Purses and handle continue to grow

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Arapahoe Park’s improving purse structure the last several years has helped the Aurora, Colo., track draw an eclectic mix of stables for its 39-date mixed meet that opens Saturday. The season will run through Aug. 19.

Purses are projected at $100,000 a card, with the potential for an increase during the course of the season, said Bill Powers, plant manager and racing secretary at Arapahoe. Just five years ago, the track paid out about $65,000 a day in purses. The upward trend, coupled with the 2011 closing of Yavapai Downs in Prescott, Ariz., has led to a diverse mix of barns filling the 1,400 stalls at Arapahoe.

“We’ve had more requests than ever,” Powers said of stable accommodations. “We predominantly get horses from Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico. We’re also getting some stables from Oklahoma, and a small percentage from Texas. And, we’ll get some horses from Montana and Wyoming.”

Entries for the meet’s first card also included horses who last raced in Nebraska.

Powers said there are a handful of new jockeys and stables for the meet. Among the seven or eight new trainers on hand are Bill Brashears, Kevin Eikleberry, and F.C. Frazier. Tyrone Gleason, who was the leading Thoroughbred trainer last season, and John Hammes, who led all Quarter Horse trainers in wins, are both back for the meet, as is the track’s leading overall jockey last year, Russell Vicchrilli.

Arapahoe has experienced increases in handle on both its live and simulcast races the past few seasons, said Powers. The track also introduced phone wagering about a year and a half ago, and has off-track betting sites in Colorado.

“If business shows the upward trend it’s been on the past few years, I would hopefully anticipate [a purse increase],” said Powers.

Arapahoe’s richest stakes are the $100,000 Gold Rush Futurity for Thoroughbreds at six furlongs, and Grade 2, $150,000 Mile High Futurity for Quarter Horses. Both will be run on the closing-day card Aug. 19. The stakes schedule also includes the $50,000 Arapahoe Classic for 3-year-olds and up at a mile and an eighth Aug. 12, and the $40,000 Colorado Derby at a mile and a sixteenth July 15. The first stakes of the meet, the $40,000 Inaugural for 3-year-olds at six furlongs, will be run on Sunday.

Arapahoe plans to offer free admission on Fridays. First post daily is 1 p.m. Mountain.