11/06/2002 1:00AM

Prairie Meadows track report

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Prairie Meadows will seek 100 Thoroughbred racing dates in 2003 from the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission later this month, according to director of racing Derron Heldt.

The 52-day Thoroughbred meeting would run from April 18 to June 28 and be followed by a 48-day mixed meet that would run from July 4 through Sept. 13. After much discussion about switching to one longer mixed meet, the racing schedule maintains the two-meet structure that has been in effect here since the mid 1990's.

The dates, if approved, will move the racing schedule forward on the calendar. The track has traditionally begun its season the last weekend of April and run through the end of September. The track has struggled to draw both entries and fans following Labor Day each year.

Track officials and representatives of horsemen's groups are still meeting to determine purse structures for the meets. Under a contract signed last spring, total purses are set at $15 million a year for each of the next three years - down from $20 million in 2002 - but the split between the meets must be worked out. The fate of the Iowa Festival of Racing has yet to be determined, according to Heldt, but Iowa Classic Night, a series of stakes events for statebreds, will definitely be continued.