01/08/2009 12:00AM

Purses up, but stakes uncertain

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GROVE CITY, Ohio - Beulah Park begins its winter/spring meet Saturday, with many business issues settled and some still up in the air.

What is certain is that Beulah will run 70 days this spring, and another 52 in the fall. Dates for 2009 were finally agreed upon in late December, when Beulah Park, River Downs, and the Ohio Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association settled their dispute over account-wagering revenue distribution and the number of days each track will run.

Purses for the Beulah winter/spring meet will be up 10 to 11 percent from the beginning of last meet, according to Ed Vomacka, Beulah Park's racing secretary.

"With the settlement of the account-wagering monies, we will raise the bottom purse from $3,100 to $3,500 and everything else will correspond," said Vomacka.

Management resurfaced the track since Beulah's fall meet ended Dec. 20. Last year's winter meet lost 20 days due to freezing and thawing of the track. The 20 days were the most Beulah has had to cancel in its 85-year history, according to general manager Mike Weiss.

Joe DeLuca, a steward and the track superintendent, said: "We took the track down to the base. Everything from there up is new. We also worked on the drainage. The only two days we didn't work on the track during the break were Christmas Day and New Year's Day.

"They started training on it Tuesday, and according to Jim Yaegel, HBPA president, everybody likes it. The times may be slower as we start, but as it packs down, the times will get quicker. The key is that it will be safe."

Still unknown is what will happen with the stakes schedule. According to Vomacka, "It is all up in the air."

Virtually all of the stakes at Beulah are for Ohio-bred horses. The Ohio Racing Commission advisory committee meets Jan. 16 and will recommend to the commission how it thinks money in the Ohio Thoroughbred Breeders Fund should be allocated.

"They have a variety of options, from leaving things the same as last year, to canceling the entire stakes program," said Vomacka. "We really have no idea until they meet and decide what can be worked out."