02/27/2009 12:00AM

Monday card scrapped due to lack of entries


Turfway Park officials had to reverse their recently announced decision to conduct live racing on Monday because of an insufficient number of entries for a scheduled nine-race card.

Turfway, located in Florence, Ky., normally is dark on Mondays and Tuesdays but announced earlier this week that racing would be conducted March 2, 9, and 16 as a way to make up for six weather-related cancellations of full or partial programs since the 2009 winter-spring meet began Jan. 1.

Turfway president Bob Elliston said racing on March 9 and 16 "will have to be re-evaluated in light of what clearly is a horse shortage for us. We probably got a little too aggressive in thinking we could make up those dates."

There were at least a couple of tell-tale signs that this first Monday card was doomed before it got off the ground. Entries and field size have been particularly light in recent weeks at Turfway, and when entries were taken Thursday for the Sunday card, there weren't enough horses to make nine races. The entry box for Sunday was kept open through Friday morning, with the nine-race card eventually drawn shortly past noon Eastern.

Elliston said there are numerous factors involved in the shortage of available horses, with the most important probably revolving around a weak purse structure at Turfway. On Friday, a race for $7,500 claiming horses at Turfway offered an $8,000 purse, while the same race at Fair Grounds in New Orleans was worth $17,000.

"Kentucky racing is in a different environment for competition," said Elliston, long an outspoken proponent of alternative gaming at state racetracks. "Tracks in many other states have supplemental purse monies that allow their racing to be more attractive than what we can currently offer."

Elliston said racing will still be held as scheduled Tuesday, March 17, which not only is St. Patrick's Day but also the Tuesday before the annual meet showcase, the $500,000 Lane's End Stakes on March 21.

Turfway had planned to offer autograph sessions with Kentucky Derby-winning jockeys on the three rescheduled Mondays in March, but those most likely will be rescheduled before the meet ends April 2, Elliston said.

Stakes nominations released

Churchill Downs on Friday released its nomination lists for the May 1 Kentucky Oaks and May 2 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic. The list of 170 3-year-old fillies for the $500,000 Oaks is led by defending divisional champion Stardom Bound. The entire lists of nominations are available on kentuckyoaks.com and kentuckyderby.com.

Nomination lists for other major Kentucky races that recently have been released include the Lane's End at Turfway, and the April 11 Blue Grass and April 4 Ashland at Keeneland.

Derby, Oaks tickets available

Churchill announced Friday that a limited number of seats to the May 2 Derby and the Oaks are available for online purchase. A media release stated that "selected levels of ticketing," along with $40 general admission and seating in the Infield Suites and Marquee Village locations, can be bought at kentuckyderby.com/2009/tickets/buy.

Churchill is selling the tickets through its partnership with TicketReturn.

* Tickets are now available to the Trainers' Dinner held every year on the Tuesday evening before the Kentucky Derby. Tickets and sponsorships are available by calling Vickie Garcia at the Kentucky Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders at (859) 259-1643.

* Apprentice rider Joe Musarro, 17, rode the first winner of his career when guiding Heavenly Surprise to a 5 1/2-length victory in the seventh race last Sunday at Turfway. Musarro is the son of Ohio-based trainer Jamie Musarro.

* Turfway has announced that stall applications for the summer session, when live racing is not conducted, are due March 7.