05/18/2016 2:00PM

Earlier start for 39-day mixed meet

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Texas Chrome wins the 2015 Gold Rush Futurity for juveniles at Arapahoe Park.

Arapahoe Park in Aurora, Colo., will be launching its season a week earlier than usual on Friday, when it opens for a 39-date mixed meet. The season featuring Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses will run through Aug. 14.

The Arapahoe meet had traditionally opened during Memorial Day weekend, but track officials wanted to start earlier this year to align opening day with the Preakness on Saturday at Pimlico. The decision was made after American Pharoah won last year’s Triple Crown.

Arapahoe’s meet will again be anchored by the $100,000 Gold Rush Futurity, a six-furlong race for 2-year-olds on Aug. 14. Last year’s Gold Rush winner, Texas Chrome, captured a division of the Texas Stallion Stakes last Sunday at Lone Star Park near Dallas and is now being considered for a start in either the Grade 2 Woody Stephens or the $150,000 Easy Goer on the Belmont Stakes undercard June 11, according to trainer J.R. Caldwell. This year’s Gold Rush will again share a program with the meet’s richest offering for Quarter Horses, the $130,000 Mile High Futurity.

Overall, there will be 36 stakes worth $1.5 million this season at Arapahoe. The schedule starts Sunday with the $35,000 Inaugural, a six-furlong race for 3-year-olds.

The $35,000 Arapahoe Park Classic, for 3-year-olds and up at 1 1/8 miles, will be run Aug. 13. Last year, it shared a card with the Gold Rush and was worth $100,000. The Arapahoe Classic will be run on a card that includes the $40,000 Spicy, a 1 1/16-mile race for fillies and mares bred in Colorado.

Friday’s season opener features trial races designed to produce fields for a trio of Quarter Horse stakes in June – the Cherry Creek Futurity, the Arapahoe Derby Challenge, and the Lucille Rowe Derby. The program Saturday will primarily feature races for Thoroughbreds.

Dennis Collins was the meet’s leading Thoroughbred rider last season, while Temple Rushton won the Thoroughbred training title. The leading owner was Annette Bishop.

Arapahoe will race Fridays through Sundays, with holiday Monday cards on Memorial Day, May 30, and on Independence Day, July 4. First post daily is 1 p.m. Mountain.

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