02/13/2008 1:00AM

Fonner reduces Bosselman purse to $75K


The horses return to the track at Fonner Park in Grand Island, Neb., on Friday, a sign that spring can't be too far off, as the state's live Thoroughbred season gets under way.

Purse levels for overnight races at the 35-day meet remain the same as last year, ranging from a bottom of $4,300 to more than $10,000 for open allowance races. To sustain the levels, a handful of stakes races have had their purses reduced, most notably this track's showcase event. The Bosselman/Gus Fonner Stakes, scheduled for April 26, has had its purse cut to $75,000. The race became the state's first $100,000 race outside of Omaha in the early 1990s.

Dennis Collins, who won his first Fonner Park riding title last year, will return to defend his crown but has riding commitments at Turf Paradise and will miss opening weekend.

Among the newcomers this year will be an appearance by Terry Houghton before he leaves for Chicago later this month. Damon Leeds, who returned to riding last year at Lincoln, should make an early impact. Newcomers Jesus Ponce and Wilfredo Arroyo will make their first appearances in Nebraska, while Luis Ranilla returns to the state. They are joined by regulars Jerry Carkeek, Don Frazier, Armando Martinez, Mike Luark, and Larren Delorme.

Possibly the most notable change will be that R.D. Williams, who is transitioning from a rider to a racing official, has been hired as an association steward for this meet. Williams, a 10-time leading rider here, attended stewards school in Kentucky last fall.

In the training ranks, perennial front-runners David Anderson and Marv Johnson are both back with full stables and are joined by regulars Jason Wise, Larry Donlin, Milton Gaede, and nearly all of last year's top 20.

Racing is conducted on a Friday-through-Sunday schedule, with the exception of Easter weekend when racing will be held Thursday through Saturday. Post time for Fridays is 2 p.m. Central, with Saturdays and Sundays at 1:30 p.m. The meet runs through Kentucky Derby Day on May 3.