04/20/2011 1:58PM

Prairie Meadows: 67-day meet to offer $228K a day in purses


ALTOONA, Iowa – Prairie Meadows commences its 22nd year of Thoroughbred racing on Friday night and, although spring weather is yet to arrive in central Iowa, the allotted stalls are rapidly filling and there is increasing activity during morning training hours.

Racing secretary Dan Doocy reports “the horse population is good. Based on stall allotment of over 1,200, we technically could end up over full.” It is a possibility Doocy does not mind having as it “should lead to increased field sizes and we’re excited to get started.”

The Thoroughbred meet will be held over 67 racing dates through Aug. 13, with purses expected to average a healthy $228,000 per day. The Thoroughbreds will be followed by a 26-day Quarter Horse meet and then by a 10-day harness session.

Prairie Meadows is home to a large casino that houses 1,900 slot machines, plus table games, and a poker room. The casino helps subsidize the horse racing operation.

Perennial leading trainers Chris Richard, Lynn Chleborad, Kelly Von Hemel, and Ray Tracy will mix their talents with newcomers Karl Broberg, Bart Hone, Kentucky Derby-winning trainer Chip Woolley, and Arapahoe Park stalwart Jon Arnett.

“Dan has been trying to convince me to come to Iowa for several years,” Arnett said, “and the purse money is just too good to pass up.”

The meet will be highlighted by the Iowa Festival of Racing on June  24-25. The Festival, which in 2010 featured stellar performances by Eclipse Award sprint finalist Majesticperfection and Concord Point, who set a track record winning the Iowa Derby, consists of six stakes races totalling over $1  million in purses.

The Grade 3, $300,000 Prairie Meadows Cornhusker Handicap; Grade 3, $250,000 Iowa Derby; and Grade 3, $200,000 Iowa Oaks are annually targeted by stables from across the country.

Defending Cornhusker champ Shadowbdancing, winner of four Prairie Meadows stakes in his career, is already being pointed for a repeat as a 6-year-old. When his Chicago-based trainer Terrel Gore was asked if he would return for the Cornhusker, he said “absolutely and we’ll prep for it in the May 28 Rasmussen Memorial there.”

Local owners and breeders will look forward to Iowa Champions night on Aug. 6 when seven stakes, featuring a minimum of $500,000 in purses, will be conducted for Iowa-breds.

The weekly schedule will be familiar to fans of Iowa racing. First post on Mondays and Tuesdays will be 3:30 p.m. Central, and Fridays and Saturdays will begin at 6:30 p.m. Prairie Meadows adds a special date this season on Sunday, July 3 when its annual fireworks spectacular will follow a 5 p.m. race card.

The opening night feature is the $60,000 Goldfinch, a six-furlong sprint for 3-year-old fillies. The Golden Circle, which has similar conditions but is for 3-year-old males, will be run Saturday night.