02/23/2011 1:42PM

Live racing resumes in Nebraska a week later than usual


GRAND ISLAND, Neb. – The spring migration of horsemen to central Nebraska is under way, signalling the return of live racing to the state, as Fonner Park opens for a 31-day stand on Friday that runs through Kentucky Derby Day on May 7.

Following the meet here, racing will move to Lincoln Race Course for a 32-day meet that runs May 13 to July 17. Horsemen’s Park in Omaha will then offer a four-day festival of racing July 21-24 before the season winds down with a 23-day session at Columbus from July 29 to Sept. 11.

The Fonner meet opens a week later than last year and will be conducted on a Friday-through-Sunday basis until Easter weekend. The final two weeks of the season will offer racing on Fridays and Saturdays.

The meet’s showcase event, the $75,000 Bosselman-Gus Fonner Stakes, has been moved back a week to April 30 and some other minor adjustments have been made to the stakes schedule. The $25,000 Tondi Stakes, usually the first step towards the Bosselman-Gus Fonner, has been moved up two weekends and will be run March 12. The final prep, the Dowd Mile, will be offered April 9, three weeks before the Bosselman.

The opening weekend feature is Saturday’s $10,000 Grasmick Stakes at a half-mile with 12-year-old Tonight Rainbow expected to try for a sixth win in the race. The Bold Accent, for fillies and mares, has been moved to the second weekend of the meet after enjoying a run as the first stakes of the season for several years.

Jordan OIesiak, last year’s leading rider here, returns to defend his title. His younger brother Jake, who was fourth in the standings, also returns. Mike Ziegler, Armando Martinez, Don Frazier, Chris Fackler, and the other regulars will be joined by newcomers Michael Kretzler, apprentice Josh Molitor, and Karlo Lopez, who arrived late in the meet here last year.

Chuck Turco returns as the one to beat in the trainers’ race with Dudley Graham, Kim Veerhusen, Milton Gaede, and Marv Johnson among last year’s leaders. Temple Rushton, a ship-in trainer the last couple of seasons, will be on hand from the start this year.

While weather wreaked havoc to the south with Oaklawn Park losing numerous days, Nebraska has had much milder conditions and there should be a good population of horses with multiple works under their belt as the meet begins.

Although some snow accumulation was forecast for Thursday, the weekend forecast is for temperatures in the high 20s to low 30s and should not impact Fonner’s schedule..