02/22/2012 12:51PM

Fonner Park set to open meet with mild weather


GRAND ISLAND, Neb. – The remains of a winter storm a couple weeks ago have given way to milder temperatures as Fonner Park gears up for the opening of its 59th season Friday.

The main track opened for training during mild January weather, and timed workouts began Feb. 13 with full tabs the rule leading up to opening day. Horsemen have been steadily arriving, and the Fonner Park barn area is expected to be near capacity when the season gets under way. Racing will be conducted on a Friday-through-Sunday schedule, and although entries were a bit light for opening day, 10-race cards are to be expected throughout the meet.

The meet is highlighted by the $75,000 Bosselman/Gus Fonner Stakes on Saturday, April 28. The stakes schedule begins Saturday with the Grasmick, a half-mile race that drew 20 nominations. Five-time Grasmick winner Tonight Rainbow, now 13, has been nominated, as has 2010 winner Kid Rambo and multiple stakes winner Song of Humor.

There is a familiar roster of returning horsemen this year, with leading conditioner Chuck Turco joined by runner-up Kim Veerhusen and a host of other regulars, including Christy Johnson, Jerry Gourneau, Steve Hall, and Kelli Martinez. Milton Gaede, a longtime regular, returns with 499 career winners and a solid stable.

Newcomers this meet include Satrohan Singh and Greg Lebsock, who both bring in a half-dozen horses. Hiram Gonzalez raced at the other tracks on the circuit last year and will have nearly a dozen head. Rick Bogdanovich, a previous leader at Columbus, returns with a small string.

The jockey colony will begin the season with 20 riders, an increase over previous years. Brothers Jordan and Jake Olesiak, one-two in the standings last year, are joined by regulars Armando Martinez, Mike Ziegler, Don Frazier, and the father-son duo of Luis and Jose Ranilla among others. Rohan Singh is expected to arrive soon, and newcomers Luis Ramon Rodriguez, Celso Rodriguez, and Zachary Sebereth are young riders looking to establish themselves.