04/22/2014 11:56AM

Atlantic City meet opens Thursday with big fields

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Sixty-four horses have been entered in the six races on the opening card at Atlantic City Race Course in New Jersey on Thursday, an indication that the all-turf meet still resonates with horsemen.

As it has for the past decade, Atlantic City will run six live cards this year, starting with four consecutive cards Thursday through Sunday. The track will take a one-day break before returning to live racing Tuesday and Wednesday next week. First post each day is 3:30 p.m. Eastern, with six turf races scheduled for each card on a one-mile course.

The all-turf cards have proven to be a strong draw among horsemen on the East Coast over the years, and 2014 is no different. The races have already been drawn for the first four cards, with 67 horses entered for Friday, 72 on Saturday, and 68 on Sunday, for an average over the first four days of 11.3 horses per race, a figure that is tops in the nation.

Using revenue from year-round simulcasting for purses, Atlantic City has carved out a small niche on the annual racing calendar with its abbreviated meet. Parking and admission are free again this year.

The lone stakes race during the meet is the closing-day Tony Gatto Dream Big Stakes, a five-furlong turf sprint with a purse of $50,000-added.

Most of the races offered at the meet are starter allowances and maiden special weights offering purses in the range of $15,000 to $27,000. The draw for horsemen is the lure of the turf after a winter without grass racing in the Northeast.