08/28/2007 11:00PM

Rich meet begins with a stakes


ERIE, Pa. - Entries were drawn Wednesday for Saturday's inaugural card at Presque Isle Downs, and even though eight races came together, business at the entry box may not have been as brisk as expected since the meet will be giving away a staggering $500,000 a day in purses.

The casino at Presque Isle Downs, located in northwest Pennsylvania near Lake Erie, opened Feb. 28, and more than $987 million has been wagered in its 2,000 slot machines through Tuesday. Racing's share of the profits will total more than $13 million this year, all of which must be distributed under state law by the end of the meet on Sept. 29. A 100-day meet with average daily purses of $300,000 is planned for 2008. Presque Isle is owned by MTR Gaming Corp., the owners of Mountaineer Race Track and Gaming Resort.

Saturday's card attracted 77 entries, an average of 9.6 horses per race. Only one race, a maiden for 2-year-old fillies with a purse of $70,000, was oversubcribed. The $100,000 Inaugural Stakes, for 3-year-old fillies at six furlongs, drew a field of 10, topped by Tres Dream, winner of the Ponca City at Remington Park in her last start. She is trained by Steve Asmussen. The Inaugural will be run as the first race on opening night.

Other contenders in the Inaugural include the Steve Klesaris-trained Dicey Girl, a winner of 2 of 3 starts, and Cantrel, the lone Pennsylvania-bred in the field, who is trained Scott Lake.

A number of well-known trainers are represented on the Saturday card. Asmussen, who has 30 stalls, has horses entered in six of the eight races. Lake, Tom Amoss, Merrill Scherer, Dale Baird, Graham Motion, Jim Chapman, and Todd Beattie all have multiple entrants on opening day. Jockeys riding at Presque Isle on Saturday include Corey Lanerie, Miguel Mena, Eddie Martin Jr., Rosemary Homeister Jr., Joe Hampshire Jr., Terry Houghton, Rod Madrigal, and Mario Pino.

The backstretch at Presque Isle Downs has room for just over 500 horses, but as of Wednesday only 168 horses were stabled on the grounds. Another 20 shipped in from local farms and training centers to train on Wednesday.

"Quite a few of the bigger outfits are waiting to see when their horses get into races, and then shipping in," said racing secretary Joe Narcavish.

Presque Isle has a one-mile synthetic main track built by Tapeta Footings, which is owned by Michael Dickinson. Tapeta is in use at Dickinson's Tapeta Farm and the Fair Hill Training Center in Maryland, and is being installed at Golden Gate Fields in Northern California. Presque Isle will be the first track to race over the surface, which has a cushion comprised of sand, rubber, and carpet fibers.