08/31/2005 11:00PM

Opening-day program draws full fields

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ANDERSON, Ind. - The outlook for Hoosier Park's 11th season of Thoroughbred racing appears bright as the track begins a 60-day meet Saturday evening with full fields in all 10 Thoroughbred races and four Quarter Horse trials.

The meet is anchored by the Grade 2, $500,000 Indiana Derby on Oct. 1 and the Grade 3, $400,000 Indiana Oaks on Sept. 30. Recent winners of the Indiana Derby - which is in its second year as a Grade 2 race - include Brass Hat, Orientate, and Perfect Drift.

The meet opens with racing Saturday through Labor Day and will have a Thursday-Sunday schedule next week. From then on, the schedule runs on a Wednesday-Sunday format until closing day, Nov. 25. Post time is 6:10 p.m on all days except Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 24, when there will be an 11 a.m. post time.

"We had a good opening-day draw," said Butch Cook, director of Thoroughbred racing. "Our bottom [purse] is pretty decent here, and hopefully we can keep this up."

The bottom purse for Thoroughbreds is $9,000. The purse for an Indiana-bred maiden race is $15,500, and for an Indiana-bred entry-level allowance it is $17,500. The purse for open allowance races is in the $14,500 to $16,500 range.

The barn area is stocked with familiar trainers, including two-time defending champion Ralph Martinez, who through Wednesday's racing was sixth in the nation in races won, with 146 on the year. After two years of racing at Hoosier, Martinez is third on the track's all-time wins list, with 131 wins from 372 starters.

Barb McBride, Gary Patrick, Kim Hammond, and Joe Cain were the top four trainers in the standings at this spring's Indiana Downs meeting and will send out solid contenders through the season. Marv Johnson, leading trainer at Fonner Park this spring, also returns with a full stable.

The jockey colony at the meet will not include Ramsey Zimmerman and Lester Knight, who finished one-two in the standings last year but have been suspended for incidents in other jurisdictions. Rodney Prescott, third last year, is expected to be the dominant force riding for Ralph Martinez. Prescott has 235 wins this year, second in the nation through Wednesday.

Ken Shino from Prairie Meadows and Shannon Uske from Canterbury Park are among new faces in the jockey colony.

At a glance

RACING SCHEDULE: 60 days; September 3 to November 25. Dark Mondays &Tuesday except Labor Day, Monday, September 5; Quarter Horse Racing: September 3, 4, 11, 17 ,25; October 2, 8, 16, 22, 30; November 5, 13.

POST TIME: 6:10 p.m. (EST) Wednesday through Sunday and Monday, September 5. Special Holiday Card Thursday, November 24 (Thanksgiving Day), 11 a.m.

ADMISSIONS: Clubhouse/Grandstand, $2; Club Seating $1 additional

PARKING: Free; Valet Parking, $3.

LOCATION: 4500 Dan Patch Circle; Anderson, Indiana, 46013; Exit 26 off I-29, North on Scatterfield Rd.

SIMULCASTING: Daily

PHONE: (800) 526-RACE; (765) 642-RACE (7223)

INTERNET: http://www.hoosierpark.com; email: info@hoosierpark.com