08/02/2005 11:00PM

Citing uneven surface, Prairie shortens races

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The racing surface at Prairie Meadows has become uneven in certain parts of the track's six-furlong chute. The problem forced three six-furlong races on Tuesday to be switched to 5 1/2 furlongs.

Riders have complained of a dip in the racing surface, on approximately the four inside paths, for the past several weeks. The track has repeatedly added material to the affected area, but the problem has reappeared.

"The surface is going somewhere, but we're not sure exactly what the problem is at this point," said Derron Heldt, Prairie Meadows director of racing. Explaining the decision to shorten the races, Heldt said, "The horses' and riders' safety comes first."

The track closed for training at 8 a.m. Wednesday morning, at which time the racing surface was peeled back to the base in the chute. As of Wednesday afternoon, track officials were still trying to determine the cause of the problem. Training was canceled for Thursday morning.

Racing officials shortened all six-furlong races to 5 1/2 furlongs when entries were taken Tuesday morning for Thursday evening's racing. On Wednesday morning, entries were taken for six-furlong races for Friday's card.

"Hopefully we can solve the problem [Wednesday], but we didn't want to take any chances until we are sure what we are dealing with," said Heldt.

He said a decision on whether to keep Friday's races at six furlongs or to shorten them to 5 1/2 furlongs would be made on Friday morning.