02/22/2006 1:00AM

Prairie Meadows track report

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Prairie Meadows director of racing Derron Heldt and racing secretary Dan Doocy are currently touring the country, visiting the backsides of numerous tracks and recruiting horsemen for the upcoming 45-day meeting, which begins April 21.

Heldt and Doocy have a powerful tool to entice trainers - major purse increases. Prairie will average approximately $250,000 per day in purses during the 2006 Thoroughbred meeting, up approximately 35 percent from last year, when the average daily purse was about $186,000.

The track has drastically increased purses for the lower-level races. A $4,000 claiming event went for $5,500 in 2005; this year the same race will a purse of $11,500.

"We wanted to shake things up," said Heldt.

Heldt said he thought the new purse structure would not only attract new stables to Prairie but would also encourage local horsemen to purchase new horses in order to stay competitive.

Stall applications for the meeting are due March 13, and the track opens for training on March 21. Prairie will feature an enlarged and improved paddock and walking ring in 2006. The jocks' room has also been doubled in size as part of an ongoing $60 million dollar expansion at the racetrack and casino.

Prairie officials have already visited Oaklawn Park, Sam Houston, Sunland Park, Tampa Bay Downs, and Turf Paradise, and will be at Turfway Park, Trackside in Louisville, and Hawthorne in the coming weeks, handing out condition books and stall applications.