01/04/2014 1:25PM

Beulah Park begins its final meet

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It will be the long goodbye, as Beulah Park begins its final meet in its longtime home in suburban Columbus, Ohio, on Monday. Built in 1923 as the first track in the state, Beulah will be ending its association with Grove City when it moves later this year into sparkling new digs in a $125 million racino in Austintown, a suburb of Youngstown in the northeastern sector of the state.

The new facility, scheduled to open for racing in November, is part of a sweeping movement in Ohio following legislation that approves slots at racetracks.

“There’s a lot of sentiment going around here right now,” said Ed Vomacka, the racing secretary at Beulah the last 12 years. “A lot of people are sorry to see this place go, but on the other hand, we’re all looking forward to the revenue from the new VLTs.”

Beulah is scheduled to open Monday for the final meet, which will run through Kentucky Derby Day, May 3. A number of ceremonies and tributes to honor the old facility will be held prior to closing day so as not to conflict with fans’ interest in the Derby, said Vomacka.

“There are a few things on tap during the meet and into April,” he said. “I’m one who’s actually moving to the new place, but many people are entrenched here in the Columbus area with their families and such and just can’t leave. So this final go-round is going to be a pretty emotional time for those folks, as you can understand. Beulah Park has been part of this community for a long time.”

Besides the cost of building the new facility, owner Penn National Gaming Inc. also will pay $50 million for a video lottery terminal (VLT) license and a $75 million fee for relocating the existing racing license.

In the meantime, fans of the old Beulah will watch modestly priced Thoroughbreds battle the winter elements. In fact, the eight-race Monday opener might very well be in doubt because of harsh weather, and the same goes for an eight-race Tuesday card. The forecasted high temperature for either day is a mere 5 degrees, with lows dipping below zero.

Alberto Pusac, who led the fall meet that ended Dec. 17 with 26 wins, is back to lead the Beulah jockey colony, while veteran trainer Ralph Martinez, who dominated that meet in wins (20) and starts (87), is expected to be a major force again.

Three stakes are tentatively on the schedule, although they still await a rubber-stamp approval of the Ohio State Racing Commission. All three are $50,000 races for statebreds.

Bill Downes will be back in his familiar spot in the race-caller’s booth for this final Grove City meet.

Paul F More than 1 year ago
i dont think gambling will save the industry but i suppose its worth a slot.........slot get it ?..i kill myself
Charles Sakach More than 1 year ago
Actually... Gambling is ruining the industry. State lotteries and casino gaming...all that "fast action" that doesn't require any brains or effort in order to participate. I live in Michigan...racing is all but gone...prior to casinos, the hottest spot in the Detroit area during the winter was Northville Downs...or Windsor Raceway across the river in Canada. Now it is all simulcasting...and you hardly see anyone that is under 50. Racing will be gone before the bulk of us are gone. Nobody is interested in racing. It takes motivation and hard work to learn how to handicap and win consistently. One must buy books...and read them...do homework...and unless that is a labor of love, it will not happen. I don't see any real effort in marketing the sport to keep folks interested. Thirty years ago, one could buy a newspaper in Detroit and the out-of-town results from several of the major tracks would be listed in the sports section. So too would be the entries and selections from the local tracks. None of this exists today. To watch horse racing at home, it costs money. To access articles with interesting subject matter, it costs money. When I was first getting interested in this sport, a Daily Racing Form cost $1.25 and one had to tear it across a perforation and fold it back together. You could also buy a form at many different outlets around town. I used to go to Leisure Book Mart on Warren Avenue at 5:00 AM just to get one before I came back across town to go to work. I bought a Form every day. This is not practical for anyone to do today. So basically, the prohibitive cost of getting a Form and being able to watch racing on television are also contributing to the demise of racing just as much as the competition from casinos and State lotteries. Perhaps if it were less cost-prohibitive to obtain a Form or watch HRTV and TVG, it would help spark new interest from a new generation of fans.
Matt Romo More than 1 year ago
i think focusing on the cost prohibitive nature and technology are exactly what is opening it up to fans of my generation. for 1.25 i can get pp's on my computer, watch and gamble from it or put it on my tablet and take it to the track with me. it certainly needs to more aggressively market to my generation. that's without doubt but VLT's are providing added revenue to tracks, increasing purses, and in turn field sizes, and making races more lively. The slow adaptation to the 21st century has held back the industry a bit. I certainly agree to your other points about handicapping being a skill that is not easily acquired or learned, one that takes a bit more work, but that doesn't mean fans can't be interested in the sport for the pure entertainment value of it. It's do-able. It'll take some work, and it's happening but it's do-able.
Hail No More than 1 year ago
"but that doesn't mean fans can't be interested in the sport for the pure entertainment value of it. " For some reason, the line Teri Garr said in "Let it Ride" come's to mind, "I don't know why you people just can't watch the horses run without betting on them" :-)
[removed] More than 1 year ago
This comment has been deleted
noalaistoday More than 1 year ago
Anybody who wants to see horses slaughtered is a sick individual. It is not the horse's fault he is not Orb or some other regal blooded horse. They are beautiful animals who give their all for your enjoyment.
Charles Sakach More than 1 year ago
It was Beulah before it was Darby...then changed back to Beulah. I drove down with my buddies from the Detroit area when it was Darby, but that was almost 35 years ago. My wife and I visited in October 2006. We witnessed a horrible racing incident where a 3YO filly named Angela Jane broke down at the wire and had to be euthanized. Among other things that occurred that day, I wrote a long letter to Ed Vomacka about that incident in addition to my wife noticing the gate crew coming in for a round of beers after each route race. As for the incident: It was already a 4 horse field and no more could be scratched. I was standing next to the rail when the horses walked out onto the track. When Angela Jane (trained by W.C. Cowans) walked past, she looked at me with the same look a dog would give you once it had been mistreated and lost all of its trust in humans. When the gate opened, Angela Jane went to her knees. It was all the jockey could do to hold her up. He could have eased her; after all the other 3 fillies were already over 100 yards ahead and coming out of the clubhouse turn. However, you don't get any purse money unless the horse finishes. Angela Jane was just coming out of the final turn after the other 3 had finished. My wife and I were standing at the wire. When Angela Jane got to the wire I heard a "snap" and she went down, tossing her rider like a bag of potatoes. The race crew started gathering the vehicles around her almost immediately. As she laid there, my wife (already sobbing) asked, "Is she going to be all right?" I told her the truth...they only gather around those vehicles to hide the euthanasia from the public. My wife started crying her eyes out. She went to the Ladies' Room to compose herself. After about a half hour, she came out and told me..."I HATE RACING...I AM NEVER GOING TO THE TRACK AGAIN!" Of course this was before she lit into me for being a fan. I have seen some horrible incidents at the track in my days. I've seen snapped forelegs leading to several horses going down and some horrible harness racing incidents. However, this was the first one...and the last... that my wife had ever seen. We both love animals and this hit her hard. I was compelled to write Beulah management just as I am compelled to keep telling this story. As for Beulah: I thought the place was run-down and a little dirty. It wasn't like that when it was Darby. Interesting architecture and lay out. It is unfortunate that the only real memory I have of this place was the euthanasia of Angela Jane. That's why I always pray that each race finishes without incident before I examine whether my wagers were successful...it is because of all of the "Angela Janes"...
DRFMcGee More than 1 year ago
FWIW, part deux: Beu is canceled again today (Tue) because of the bitter cold ...
rahman Williams More than 1 year ago
Whoever gave me thumbs down must be from Youngstown.LOL. Columbus is a fast growing Metropolis with plenty of stuff to do. Grove City on of the best place to live. The economy in that town will not suffer much.
rahman Williams More than 1 year ago
Grove City better then anyplace in Youngstown. They need something in that city. I don't know how many people here ever been to Columbus. City does not need a racetrack. Go Eastmoor High!!!!!!
DRFMcGee More than 1 year ago
FWIW, Beu is canceled today because of sub-freezing temps ...
Quite A Dude More than 1 year ago
If any racing venue needed slots it's California.. Hard to believe California racetracks year in, year out sit on their hands while Indian casinos grab gaming share with no opposition..
a a More than 1 year ago
They don't sit on their hands. They are outgunned by the Indians.
Matthew More than 1 year ago
They are being outspent...corruption
michael More than 1 year ago
Wher is Ace Bernstein when you really need him.
noalaistoday More than 1 year ago
Arnold gave the rights to the Indians. Not much can be done about it now
The Big B More than 1 year ago
In gambling world, they say fans you must spend to make money. Yet, management let place deteriorate so badly nobody wanted to go. Apparently one way street. Incredible to think Central Ohio will not have thoroughbred racing now while rest of state is over saturated. Their Hollywood Casino right up the road is faltering badly. Why did they not combine it and invest to modernize the racing at Beulah?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Glad its finished. Close down more tracks in 2014.
Standiforx More than 1 year ago
I've seen your posts on all kinds of stories -- always negative and condemning the sport and the people in it. Do you have anything better to do with your time?
a a More than 1 year ago
He is entitled to his opinion. And is absolutely correct.
Matt Romo More than 1 year ago
haha no, an opinion like that can't be correct or incorrect, it's just an opinion based on a feeling without fact.
Bruce Epstein More than 1 year ago
Oh look it's the "no name" negative idiot agian . . . have another bad beat on your 10 cent super play? Grow up and get lost.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Epstein. U are a stalker. Get some therapy for it.
Matt Romo More than 1 year ago
certainly have a lot of time on your hands. why are you so adamantly against horse racing succeeding?