02/09/2005 12:00AM

Bosselman highlight of meeting

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GRAND ISLAND, Neb. - Fonner Park opens up Nebraska's live racing season on Friday with a nine-race card that starts out the 38-day season on the five-eighth-mile oval.

With construction of the Heartland Events Center under way on track property, the Fonner will offer free general admission and parking for this year's meet. The 6,000-seat events center is slated for completion in the summer of 2006. It will be connected to the west side of the existing Fonner facility and will occupy nearly as much space as the current track does.

As has been the case since 1990, the $100,000 Bosselman/Gus Fonner Stakes anchors the season. The 1 1/16-mile race for older horses, scheduled for April 23, regularly attracts a strong field of Midwestern runners. Last year, trainer Tom Van Berg brought in Sonic West to win the Bosselman.

Stakes action will be offered every weekend, with the Bold Accent Handicap highlighting the opening weekend this Saturday.

David Anderson, this track's three-time defending champion trainer, will have a full string of horses as he seeks to add to his total of six training titles. Marv Johnson, also a six-time title winner here, has a full barn. Those two are joined by returning regulars Brian Roberts, Boyd Caster, Ricky Gustafson, and Jim Compton.

The riding colony should be exceptionally strong this year. Perry Compton, winner of the riding title here the past five years, is joined by R.D. Williams. The two have nine titles each at Fonner Park. They will be joined by Curtis Kimes, a strong runner-up to Compton last year; Mike Ziegler, who will ride here on a regular basis for the first time in several years; Beth Butler, who is in from Beulah Park; and apprentices Dan Wirick and Mike Luark.

Purses will remain level with last year, offering a $4,000 bottom and a daily distribution of approximately $58,000. The Nebraska Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association estimates it will contribute $460,000 to the Fonner Park purse fund from proceeds generated by its simulcasting facility, Horsemen's Park in Omaha.

Fonner Park

RACING SCHEDULE: 38 days; Friday to May 7.

POST TIME: 2 p.m. Central on Fridays (3 p.m. beginning April 1); 1:30 p.m. Saturdays & Sundays.

MEET HIGHLIGHTS: $100,000 Bosselman/Gus Fonner Stakes, April 23.

ADMISSIONS: General admission, free; box seat, $2; Skyline seat, $4; Clubhouse seat, $5; Turf Club seat, $7.50

PARKING: Free

LOCATION: 700 E. Stolley Park Road, Grand Island, Neb. 68801

SIMULCASTING: Daily

PHONE: (308) 382-4515

INTERNET: http://www.fonnerpark.com