04/25/2012 2:46PM

River Downs: New management spruces up track


CINCINNATI – River Downs begins a 94-day meet Friday with a renewed sense of energy under the management of Pinnacle Entertainment and upgrades to the physical plant.

When patrons enter the track Friday for the new 3 p.m. Eastern first post, the changes will be obvious to all.

“We upgraded just about everything here, and I think fans will be really excited to see the changes,” publicity director John Englehardt said. “The place has really been spruced up, and everything that could be painted, was painted.”

The Tiki bar has been redone to make it roomier, the landscaping has been upgraded, new flat-screen televisions have been placed in the grandstand. The Pinnacle vision of fan-friendly service also is quite evident in the schedule of events.

“We have a promotion every weekend of the meet, with seven of the weekends having promotions both days and the three-day weekends will be all-weekend-long events.” Englehardt said.

The food and beverage department has been upgraded and expanded, according to Englehardt.

“We have all kinds of new things on the menu and will be having food and drink specials on a regular basis,” he said.

The barn area was nearly full as of Wednesday, and racing secretary Ed Vomacka is expecting it to be full soon.

“We had over 1,500 stall applications for just over 1,100 stalls,” he said. “As soon as Beulah Park closes Derby Day, we will be full. We have had plenty of horses on the work tab, so I am hopeful entries will fill well.”

The stakes schedule will remain the same as last season, with all stakes restricted to Ohio-registered or -accredited horses, but there will be a few changes.

On July 21, the Tah Dah for 2-year-old fillies and the $75,000 Queen City Oaks will both be run. On Aug. 11, the Hoover will be run for 2-year-olds and the $50,000 Vivacious for older fillies and mares. The Hoover will be run at six furlongs, since it will be later in the year.

“We decided to have a 2-year-old stakes and a race for older horses on the same day, a little added excitement for our fans” Vomacka said. “The first 2-year-old stake will be at Thistledown this year, so since we race later in the year, we stretched it out to six furlongs.”

The track’s two signature events, the Cradle Stakes and the Bassinet will not be run for a second consecutive year.

Bobby Pate and Joe Poole are a few of the new outfits that have stalls at River Downs. They will join Joe Woodard, Charlie Lawson, T.R. Haehn, and Doug Cowans among the top trainers. The jockey colony will be minus Amanda Tamburello, who moved her tack to Prairie Meadows. Perry Ouzts will be back to defend his riding title against Edgar Paucar, Gabriel Lagunes, and Azael Deleon among others.

River Downs has been approved to operate 2,500 slot machines, but like many tracks in the state, it is waiting to see how legal challenges are resolved before moving forward.

First post will be 1:30 p.m. daily, except Fridays.