10/04/2006 12:00AM

Shortened fall season begins


GROVE CITY, Ohio - Beulah Park begins a shortened 48-day fall meeting Friday afternoon with the hope that racing's prospects in the state may take a turn for the better before the conclusion of the season Dec. 22.

Beulah, which conducted its traditional 60-day fall meeting last year, cut back its dates this season as part of a mandate from the Ohio Racing Commission, which was agreed to by all of the state's tracks as well as the Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association. The commission's stated purpose for the date reductions at Ohio's three Thoroughbred tracks was to raise the average purse per race in order to better compete with surrounding states for horses.

The purse raises have not occurred at Beulah, with purses remaining the same from 2005's fall meeting. The bottom purse here is $4,100 while a first condition allowance race goes for a $7,500 purse.

Despite the reduced dates and stagnant purses there is optimism here that a statewide referendum in November to permit slot machines at the states three Thoroughbred and four Standardbred tracks, as well as two other casinos in the Cleveland area, will be passed by the voting public.

Conservative estimates call for purses to triple if the referendum passes and slot machines are installed. Ohio Learn and Earn, a web site dedicated to passing the referendum, estimates that $170 million a year will go to the purse fund in the state if the machines are installed.

Over the past decade Beulah's fall meeting has been among the nation's leaders in terms of average field size per race, and this year the trend may continue. Friday's seven-race opening day program drew 71 entries.

Edgar Paucar is back to defend his fall meet riding title. Trainers Jake Radosevich, Reid Gross and Charlie Lawson, who have all won titles here, are among those with horses entered on opening day.

Beulah will race four days per week through the end of November. Racing will be conducted on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. Tuesday and Wednesdays will be stand-alone programs, while Friday and Saturdays will be 7&7 programs conducted with Thistledown through the end of November.

First post is at 1:15 p.m. on stand-alone cards and 1:05 p.m. on 7&7 programs through Oct. 29. Post time will then change to 12:55 p.m. for stand-alone cards and 12:25 p.m. for 7&7 programs. Beulah will add Mondays to the schedule in December.