03/25/2004 1:00AM

Cherokees buy Will Rogers


Cherokee Casino, which is owned by the Cherokee Nation, has became the second Native American organization in Oklahoma to buy a racetrack, announcing Wednesday that it had purchased Will Rogers Downs in Claremore, Okla. Last fall, the Choctaw tribe bought Blue Ribbon Downs in Sallisaw.

The purchase price was not disclosed, but racing will be brought back to the track, which did not run a meet in 2003.

"We look forward to investing in the community to return Will Rogers Downs to prominence in the horse racing industry," said David Stewart, president and chief executive officer of Cherokee Nation Enterprises.

Cherokee Casino must now apply to the Oklahoma Racing Commission for a license. The tribe is not expected to seek dates for this year, but for 2005.

Will Rogers, the entertainer for whom the track was named, was a Cherokee. He is buried in Claremore.

* A shortage of entries forced the cancellation of racing at Blue Ribbon on Friday.