11/18/2005 12:00AM

Prairie's 2006 dates cut

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The Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission has unanimously voted to shorten the 2006 mixed meet at Prairie Meadows to resolve an impasse between the track and the state's harness racing association over purses.

The commission mandate states that Prairie must run a 45-day Thoroughbred meeting next year followed by a 36-day mixed meeting. Both the Iowa Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association and the Iowa Quarter Horse Racing Association had signed contracts with Prairie for 2006 calling for a 45-day Thoroughbred meeting followed by a 45-day mixed meeting.

The shortened mixed meet will save Prairie operating expenses, according to the commission, which will help defray the added purse money that it has directed the track to add to the harness association's 2006 purse account.

The commission also has directed Prairie to add $800,000 to the $14.2 million in purses the track and the HBPA had agreed upon for Thoroughbreds in 2006. Thoroughbred purses totaled $13.2 million at Prairie in 2005.

"We are in the process of evaluating their decision," said Prairie Meadows president Bob Farinella when asked if the track planned any legal challenges to the ruling. "They have taken a much more aggressive stand than in past years."

The commission mandate calls for five Thoroughbred and five Quarter Horse races daily during the mixed meet, as opposed to the traditional six Thoroughbred and four Quarter Horse races, and could reduce the number of Thoroughbred races run at the track by more than 100 from 2005. Under the new schedule, Prairie would run its Thoroughbred meet from April 21 to July 4, while the mixed meeting would begin July 13 and end Sept. 9.

Iowa HBPA president Leroy Gessmann said his group was blindsided by the commission mandates. "We are having our attorneys look at the paperwork to determine exactly how this impacts us," said Gessmann, who added he was happy with the additional purse money granted to his group.