04/04/2016 2:26PM

Meet opens with upgraded facilities, new voice in booth

Coady Photography
F J Uncle Vic, shown winning the Star of Texas at Sam Houston in January, returns Thursday in the $50,000 Premiere Stakes at Lone Star.

Lone Star Park near Dallas will open its 50-date meet Thursday night with a new announcer, an improved purse structure, and later post times. The track will race through July 17.

“We’re going into our 20th season,” said Bart Lang, director of racing for Lone Star.

Jim Byers will be the new voice of Lone Star, taking over for John Lies, who now serves as the racing secretary and announcer for Will Rogers Downs. Byers is familiar with the local booth, having subbed at times for Lies.

Purses for overnight races are up $1,000 each over last season, according to Lang. The move brings the projected average daily purse distribution to more than $150,000, compared with $140,000 in 2015.

Lone Star’s post times also have changed, with cards to start a half-hour later than usual. There will be a first post of 7:05 p.m. Central most Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays and a 2:05 p.m. start time on Sundays and Triple Crown Saturdays.

“The main reason for the change was to allow people that are working to get here on a Thursday or Friday night,” said Lang. “They can get done working, get home, get changed, and come to the races. With the Dallas traffic, it gives them a little more time to get here.”

Lang said in other changes, about $1 million in capital improvements have been made to the grandstand facilities, including upgrades to the tote board in the paddock, concession stands, and the jockeys’ quarters. Lone Star also has a new tote company, Sportech.

“We will be rolling out mobile betting at the track this season,” said Lang.

The 11-race stakes schedule will again be led by a pair of Grade 3 route races for 3-year-olds and up – the $200,000 Texas Mile on May 6 and the $200,000 Lone Star Park Handicap on May 30. In changes to this year’s $1 million stakes program, three races have been moved to Sundays, said Lang. They are the Wayne Hanks Memorial on April 10 and a pair of divisions of the Texas Stallion Stakes on May 15.

The stakes schedule opens Thursday night with the $50,000 Premiere for 3-year-olds and up bred in Texas. The 6 1/2-furlong feature goes as the first race on an eight-race program. The field includes the stakes winners Supermason, Spider’s Alibi, Texas Bling, A M Milky Way, F J Uncle Vic, and Solar Charge.

C.J. McMahon has the mount on A M Milky Way for trainer Karl Broberg. McMahon won the riding title last season, while Broberg was the leading trainer at Lone Star. As for A M Milky Way, he is returning to the Texas-bred ranks, and the last time he raced against such rivals, he won the $50,000 Spirit of Texas in January at Sam Houston.

Solar Charge also is returning to the statebred ranks off a third-place finish in a Sam Houston allowance March 8. F J Uncle Vic won the $50,000 Star of Texas at a mile in January at Sam Houston.