10/26/2016 10:36AM

Plenty of horses for Mahoning Valley opener


Big fields and a major event mark the shift of Ohio racing to Mahoning Valley Race Course near Youngstown this weekend.

The 37-day fall meet begins with a Friday program at 12:45 p.m. Eastern. Horsemen stuffed the entry box with 86 horses plus a dozen also-eligibles for an eight-race card. The average field size of 10.75 horses is right in line with last fall’s meet, where Mahoning Valley averaged 10.13 horses per race.

For the first time, Mahoning Valley on Saturday will host the Best of Ohio series, comprising five stakes for Ohio-breds with purses of $150,000 apiece.

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During November and December, Mahoning Valley will offer nine stakes, topped by the $200,000 Steel Valley Sprint for 3-year-olds on Monday, Nov. 21.

The opening-day feature is a five-furlong, no-conditions allowance that drew 11 runners. The best last-race Beyer Speed Figure, an 89, belongs to the 3-year-old Torazo, who romped by 6 3/4 lengths in a second-level optional $40,000 claimer at Indiana Grand last month.

The field also includes 15-time winner Moving Style, off since winning the Michigan Breeders’ Governor’s Cup at Hazel Park in July; Champions Gate, who has gone 4 for 7 since he was claimed for $10,000 in August 2015; and Runnin Fun, a multiple stakes winner in Michigan exiting a 7 1/2-length victory against allowance company at Hazel Park.

Elliot Sullivan, the leading trainer at the winter-spring meet that ended in April, with 26 wins from 111 starters, has entered horses in five races on opening day.

Christian Pilares, who topped the jockey standings at the most recent meet with 49 winners, is named on mounts in six races Friday, including Team Six for high-percentage trainer Nabu Morales in the race 6 feature.

The fall meet goes through December and runs right into the winter-spring meet, which begins in January. Mahoning Valley will race Mondays through Wednesdays, plus Saturdays. Overnight purses averaged $106,000 last fall. Friday’s card is worth a cumulative $99,500.

The meet also marks the debut of the Buckeye Pick 6, a 20-cent minimum wager in which the majority of the pool will carryover until a day when there is just one single winning ticket.