07/17/2007 12:00AM

Four-day meet in its 10th go-round


OMAHA, Neb. - Horsemen's Park fires up for a four-day festival of racing on Thursday as the track celebrates its 10th year of bringing live racing back to Omaha, Nebraska's largest city.

Horsemen's Park is owned and operated by the Nebraska Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association as a simulcast facility that supports the state's racing industry. The facility was built to replace one of the Midwest's premier tracks, Ak-Sar-Ben, which ran its last live meet in 1995. Through its successful year-round simulcast business, Horsemen's Park pumps more than a million dollars a year into the purse funds at Fonner Park, Lincoln State Fair, and Columbus Ag Park. The Nebraska horsemen's association also owns Horsemen's Atokad Downs in South Sioux City, which runs a festival meet in September.

The four-day Horsemen's Park festival includes food courts, beer gardens, and live bands playing during and after the races daily, with a county fair atmosphere that draws 8,000 to 12,000 every day. Fans can sign up during the week for a Sunday's drawing with a grand prize of a trip for two to Cancun.

The weekend's racing is anchored by Sunday's $50,000 Omaha Stakes, which had its purse reduced from the $100,000 it had offered in its first nine runnings. The Queen's Handicap was discontinued, as the races now cater to horsemen who race in the state. Claiming race purses start at $15,000 and purses range up to $27,500 for the Nebraska-bred stakes offered each day.

The infield got an update this year, as Columbus Races, in partnership with AmTote and Skyway Transportation Inc. of Lincoln, have worked together to build a portable tote board that will get its first use this weekend. The board, built from a semi-trailer provided by Skyway, will be moved to Columbus for that meet, which opens next weekend.

"We'll give it her maiden voyage here," said Dick Moore, Horsemen's Park's general manager, who has overseen the track since its beginning. Moore will retire later this year, and Greg Hosch will take over the reins at the facility.

Thursday's feature is the $27,500 Fantango Lady Stakes for 3-year-old Nebraska-bred fillies going a mile. Plaer's Trump will make her first start since she faced older rivals in the Matchmaker Stakes at Lincoln on June 16. She will face Shade On, winner of the Breeders' Special at Lincoln on July 7.