07/25/2005 11:00PM

Purses get boost from HBPA

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COLUMBUS, Neb. - Nebraska's live racing shifts to the Columbus Races at Agricultural Park on Thursday, opening day of a 24-day meet that runs through Sept. 11.

The purse schedule has seen a much-welcomed increase, with the bottom purse at $4,600 and ranging up to $7,100 for open allowance horses. The purse fund received $290,000 from the Nebraska Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association through the success of its simulcasting facility at Horsemen's Park in Omaha, making the increase possible.

The stakes schedule will start off Friday evening with the $10,000 Inaugural Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, and there will be a stakes race each weekend.

Racing will be conducted Thursday through Sunday for the first two weeks of the meet and then shift to its traditional Friday-through-Sunday format for the balance of the meet. There is a Monday holiday card on Labor Day, Sept. 5. Post time is 6:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, with a 2 p.m. post on Sundays and Labor Day.

The jockey colony will have most of the top riders from last year, including Armando Martinez, Dennis Collins, Dan Beck, Yuri Yaranga, and Lee Sensenbach. R.D. Williams will ride here on a regular basis for the first time in several years. Jerry Carkeek, missing since late in the Lincoln meet with a broken hand, is expected to return during the meet.

David Anderson, last year's training champion, returns with a full complement of horses after winning the titles at Fonner Park and Lincoln this year. Milton Gaede and Don Strode, both having very successful years, will be represented at the meet, as will Bill Conyers, Kelli Martinez, Gene DeRoin, Larry Staroscik, David Grimes, and Dale Burns from last year's leader board.

Fridays will feature the return of the popular "Bet a Buck Night," with $1 bets in addition to $1 hot dogs and draft beers, a special that will also be offered on Thursday's opening-day card.