07/19/2011 11:23AM

Horsemen's Park: Four-day festival opens in Omaha

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OMAHA, Neb. – With the heat of summer fully upon the region, racing in Nebraska shifts to Omaha’s Horsemen’s Park for a four-day festival of racing that gets under way Thursday evening with races geared to horses that have raced in the state this year.

With luck, there will also be a reprieve from the 100-degree heat wave that has gripped the area with temperatures now forecast to be around 90 for Thursday’s four-race program that gets underway at 6 p.m. Central. The Horsemen’s Park festival has generated tremenedous local support over the years with large crowds turning out each day to watch the only live racing presented in Nebraska’s largest city.

This year should be no different with bands playing in the beer garden each night and food courts set up both on the west side of the main building and to the south near the paddock area. Horsemen’s Park opened in 1998 and is operated by Omaha Exposition and Racing, a division of the Nebraska Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association. The live meet satisfies a state law that enables the facility to simulcast year-round.

The meet is highlighted by Sunday’s $50,000 Omaha Stakes for older horses going one mile and also features a one-mile Nebraska-bred stakes race each day with purses of $27,500-added.

Thursday’s feature, the Fantango Lady Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, rematches the top three finishers from the Breeders’ Special at Lincoln Race Course – Sookie’s Kookies, Blumin Memories, and Sounds Better.

Breeders’ Special winner Sookie’s Kookies will be making her first start going a mile in the Fantango Lady for trainer Brian Roberts and will have Jordan Olesiak aboard. She is riding a two-race win streak and is the likely favorite in the field of seven that includes an entry from trainer Christy Johnson.

Sounds Better, trained by Steve Hall, will also be making her first start at a mile but should receive a good share of support in this spot with Ashley Dill aboard. Sounds Better is out of the mare Cerveza Lite, who won this race in 2005.

Johnson sends out the entry of Miss Stryker and Devils Kiss, both homebred daughters of Drinkwiththedevil that have returned to Nebraska following the recent conclusion of the Indiana Downs meet.