07/25/2006 11:00PM

Columbus track report

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Nebraska's final extended meeting of the season gets under way Friday night when Columbus fires up for a 24-day session that runs through Sept. 10.

Columbus will sport one of its highest purse levels ever, with purses ranging from a bottom of $5,000 up to more than $8,000 for higher-allowance level horses. Stakes races also received a boost this year and will have a minimum of $12,500.

The boost in purses is made possible by the Nebraska Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, which contributes money to purses at the state's tracks from the simulcast revenue generated at Horsemen's Park in Omaha, which the HBPA operates. Counting the $400,000 given to the Columbus meeting, the HBPA has funneled nearly $2 million into the purse structures of Fonner Park, Lincoln State Fair, and Columbus this season.

Nikki Nine is the headliner of the opening night $12,500 Inaugural Stakes, a six-furlong race that has attracted a field of six 3-year-old fillies.

Nikki Nine, a three-time stakes winner this year, returns to straight 3-year-old company after facing older mares in her last start, the Bluegrass Handicap at Lincoln. Trained by Kim Veerhusen, Nikki Nine will be ridden by Larren Delorme.

Smacktalker, trained by Jim Compton, has come up short while closing well in her two meetings with Nikki Nine this year, but the longer stretch at Columbus should be much more to her liking. Smacktalker turns back in distance off a late-running third going a mile at Lincoln.

Post time at Columbus will be 7 p.m. Central on Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. on Sundays and Labor Day. There will also be a pair of Monday night cards on

Aug. 21 and 28 with post time at 7. The track will offer free admission this year and patrons can register throughout the season for meet-end giveaways that include big screen TV's, an ATV, and a new car. The tradition of bet-a-buck and dollar refreshments and hot dogs will once again be the norm for Fridays.