07/24/2002 12:00AM

Columbus track report


COLUMBUS, Neb. - Agricultural Park in Columbus opens its 25-day meet Friday night with eight weekends of racing to be presented on the five-eighths mile oval.

The barn area has filled up nicely through the week and stall applications exceeded the nearly 800 stalls available on the grounds. A majority of the leaders from last year's jockey and trainer standings have returned.

Improvements have been made to the grandstand area this year, including the addition of stadium seats to the second level box seats at trackside. The track purchased 3,000 seats from the old AKsarben grandstand and will eventually replace the wooden bleachers of the grandstand with theater-style seating.

The entryway to the second level of the grandstand also has been remodeled.

Racing will be conducted on a Friday-through-Sunday basis, with the exception of a holiday card Monday, Sept. 2. Post time is 6:30 p.m. Central on Friday and Saturday evenings and 2 p.m. on Sundays and Labor Day.

A pair of 2-year-old stakes have been added to the schedule to replace the Nebraska Breeders' Sweepstakes Juvenile and Debutante, which have been phased out. The $10,000-added stakes are named the Columbus Laddie and Columbus Lassie Stakes for Nebraska-breds. The $15,000 NBS Sophomore and Sophomore Fillies, in their last year of existence, will be run Aug. 4.

The opening night feature, the $7,000 Inaugural Stakes for 3-year-old fillies going six furlongs, has drawn a field of seven. Flaming Night, trained by Brian Roberts, who has not been worse than second in her seven starts this year, is the favorite.

Flaming Night captured the Islander Stakes at Fonner Park this spring, but was upset by Magic Trump in the Princess Stakes at Lincoln on May 25. She faces that rival again with Kevin Murray to ride Flaming Night and Armando Martinez aboard Magic Trump for trainer Herb Riecken.