02/21/2007 1:00AM

Beulah tries to chill in rough winter


Racing at Beulah Park is slowly returning to normal after a series of winter storms in the central Ohio area wreaked havoc at the track over the past several weeks. Beulah was forced to cancel five of its 10 scheduled racing programs from Feb. 5 through Feb. 17 because of three separate snowstorms.

The days that Beulah was able to run during the period didn't go off without a hitch, either.

For several days, all races carded to be run at six furlongs were shortened to 5 1/2 furlongs because of poor track conditions in the chute. Wednesday was the first day that racing was conducted at the six-furlong distance in over a week. Several programs also were conducted without internal fractions because of icing on and around the timing poles. The track's timing system was back up and fully operational on Tuesday.

Things didn't go all that smoothly at Beulah after the weather broke, either. Monday saw temperature in the mid-40's, which led to the track thawing out throughout the program. Ivan Gonzalez, who has won several riding titles at Beulah, took off his remaining mounts after Monday's first race.

"The track was thawing out, and I didn't feel it was safe," said Gonzalez. Although the card was completed, four other riders followed Gonzalez's lead during the program and took off of their remaining mounts. There were also several late scratches on Monday's program as trainers elected not to run over the surface.

Beulah Park's general manager, Mike Weiss, said he anticipates making up at least two of the five cards that were canceled, although the dates of the makeup programs have not been announced.

Beulah also announced a purse cut of up to 20 percent per race beginning with Saturday's card. The bottom purse level at Beulah will remain at $4,000, however, because of a contract between the track and the Ohio Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association.

At a meeting with horseman Wednesday morning, Weiss said the purse cut came partially because of an anticipated loss of revenue from the loss of the California simulcast signals, beginning Thursday. The Thoroughbred Owners of California pulled the California signals from Beulah as a gesture of support for the Ohio horsemen's association, which filed a lawsuit against the track and other parties after Beulah decided to send its signal to Chester Downs, a harness track in Pennsylvania, over the objections of the Ohio horsemen.

Both Weiss and representatives of the Ohio horsemen said several other horsemen's groups from around the country may join California in withholding their simulcast signals from Beulah.