07/21/2008 11:00PM

New race among meet highlights

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COLUMBUS, Neb. – The last extended stop on the Nebraska racing circuit for the year starts up Thursday as Columbus Agricultural Park opens for a 24-day meet that runs through Labor Day.

The Columbus meet is followed the weekend after Labor Day by a three-day session at Horsemen’s Atokad Downs in South Sioux City, Neb., which closes out the Thoroughbred season for the state.

The Columbus meet has been shortened by a weekend this year, with six weeks of racing conducted on a Thursday-through-Sunday basis. Thursdays have been added to the schedule this year to shave a week off the season without reducing the number of racing days. Racing starts at 6:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, with Sunday post time at 2?p.m. Seven races are scheduled for Thursdays, 10 races on Fridays, and eight on Saturdays and Sundays.

There are 12 stakes: 11 returning from previous years, plus a new stakes for Nebraska-bred fillies and mares, the $15,000 Columbus Maturity/Matron on Aug. 23. The richest races of the meet are the Columbus Maturity/Matron and the $15,000 Amadevil Stakes on Aug. 9. The Maturity/Matron is being sponsored by Worldwideinvestments.com and horse owner Tim Munson de Pascua, who is putting up $5,000 of the purse money.

On the track, Yuri Yaranga returns to defend his title from last year with the regular assortment of Nebraska riders. Trainer David Anderson has won six straight titles here and is the favorite to retain that honor.

Handicappers and horses must now adjust to the track configuration at Columbus, which has a much longer stretch than Lincoln, even though both tracks are five furlongs in circumference.