01/06/2005 12:00AM

Lots of action early in meet


GROVE CITY, Ohio - Beulah Park is gambling on the weather in an effort to lure simulcast dollars as it begins its 75-day winter-spring meeting Saturday afternoon.

Beulah has front-loaded its racing days for the meeting, which concludes May 7, scheduling five days per week in January and February. The move is an attempt to take advantage of the lack of other tracks running nationwide during that time. One potential problem for the central Ohio track is the harsh winter weather that may force cancellations.

In the past, Beulah has run three or four days per week during January and February before picking up additional days for the remainder of the meeting. This year, Beulah will race a total of only 16 days in April and May, when the state's other two Thoroughbred tracks, Thistledown and River Downs, are also racing.

Beulah's gamble appears to be a good one, at least early in the meeting, with mild weather scheduled through next week and full fields scheduled for the first two racing days of the meet. A total of 93 horses are entered for Saturday's eight-race program and 95 for Monday's nine-race card.

The numbers for Monday could have been even higher, according to Beulah's racing secretary, Ed Vomacka.

"I used a couple of allowance races with short fields," said Vomacka, "but I had cheaper races that were overfilled that I could have used instead."

Asked if he expected entries to remain strong, Vomacka said, "As long as the weather holds up and the track stays in good shape, we will be fine."

On the track, Joe Faulkner - who was stabled here for the first time during the fall meeting that ended three weeks ago and took the training title with 33 victories - returns with a full barn. Also returning are the second- and third-place finishers from the fall meet, Reid Gross and Jake Radosevich.

Vomacka has granted stalls to several horseman normally based at Thistledown who he hopes will help some of the better races. Those trainers include Mike Nance, Randy Faulkner and Mike Cartwright.

Marco Ccamaque, who easily won the riding title during the fall meet, is the one to beat again at this meeting. He could be challenged by the winter-spring meeting defending champion Ivan Gonzalez, who was a distant second in the fall meet standings.

Racing will be held Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday each week through the end of March. Post time will be 1:15 p.m.