03/17/2010 11:00PM

Large fields as Will Rogers meet opens


The severe winter weather that forced Will Rogers Downs near Tulsa, Okla., to delay the start of its meet two weeks ago has passed, and the track will open Saturday with large fields. The season is for Thoroughbreds, and it will run 32 dates through May 18.

Will Rogers had to cancel more than 20 days of training over a 60-date period leading up to the meet because of inclement weather. The situation prompted officials to ask the Oklahoma Racing Commission to push back the opening in order to give trainers more time to have horses ready to run at Will Rogers.

"By the way entries look, it was a good way to go," said Kelly Cathey, the racing secretary and track operations manager for Will Rogers. "Everything filled great.

"This was a pretty bad winter. Every time we turned around, we had six, seven, eight inches of snow."

Will Rogers, which operates a 250-machine electronic gaming casino, will have projected purses of $150,000 a day. There are four stakes in place for the meet, all sprints worth $50,000. The first two, for open company, will be run May 1, and the second two, for statebreds, go May 15.

Cathey said Will Rogers is scheduled to have its races shown on TVG for the first time this meet. He said the track's races should go into about 500 simulcast sites, up from 478 last meet. In years past, Will Rogers had run some Quarter Horse races during its spring meet. But this year, the meet is exclusively for Thoroughbreds, as a 29-date fall meet for Quarter Horses will open in September.

Martin Lozano is back to defend his training title against such horsemen as Kenny Smith, Roger Engel, and C.R. Trout. Curtis Kimes is the defending leading rider and is set to compete against Travis Wales, Dale Cordova, Nena Matz, Floyd Wethey, and Adrian Ramos.

The feature Saturday is a $27,000 allowance sprint for fillies and mares that drew Miranda Diane, who is 4 for 4 at Will Rogers.