10/02/2007 11:00PM

Beulah adds two new wrinkles for fall meet

EmailWhen Beulah Park begins its 52-day fall meet Friday, there will be two glaring differences from the spring meet. Approximately 100 gaming machines are in operation throughout the clubhouse and grandstand, and claiming horses will run for as low as a $2,500 tag for the first time since the early 1980s. The purse for $2,500 races will be $3,400.

How long the machines will be operational is uncertain. Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann tried to bar the machines, but Judge Michael J. Holbrook of the Franklin County Common Pleas Court ruled that the machines fit a definition of "games of skill" under a 2003 law.

"We will just have to see how it goes," said track general manager Mike Weiss. "We don't know how long we will have them. They are in all of the local bars, we are just trying to keep up with what people want."

"In the few weeks we have had them, we are seeing a new demographic. A lot of guys are coming to bet the races and bringing their wives to play the games. It helps get people out here."

As of right now, the profit or loss from the "games of skill" are the responsibility of Beulah Park and doesn't have any effect on the horsemen's purse account. But according to Weiss: "We have had open, positive discussions with the HBPA. If they start bringing in money, we will sit down with them and be more than fair. It is just too early to know what the machines will bring in."

Weiss said the track decided to card the $2,500 claiming races after talking with horsemen.

"We talked to the horseman and figured this would be a way to keep more horses in the game," he said.

The highlight of the meet, which runs through Dec. 22, will be this Saturday's Best of Ohio series. The five races for statebreds are the $100,000 Endurance at 1 1/4 miles, the $100,000 Distaff at 1 1/8 miles, the $75,000 Sprint at six furlongs, the $75,000 Juvenile at 1 1/16 miles, and the John Galbreath Memorial for 2-year-old fillies at 1 1/16 miles. The Best of Ohio races have traditionally played a large factor in end of year Ohio-bred awards.

Four $50,000 stakes for Ohio-breds are also scheduled during the meet, along with the $20,000 Samuel Handicap on closing day, which is restricted to horses that have run at the fall meet.

Beulah will alternate races and share a single simulcast signal with Thistledown on Fridays and Saturdays through Nov. 17