04/29/2008 12:00AM

Shortened meet brings Super High Five bet


NORTH RANDALL, Ohio - Thoroughbred racing returns to northeastern Ohio on Thursday when Thistledown begins a 122-day schedule that runs through Oct. 26.

For the third consecutive year, the number of racing days at Thistledown has been reduced. In 2005 Thistledown raced 187 days. That number was reduced to 156 in 2006 and to 136 last year. This year's 122-day schedule was agreed to after months of negotiations between the track's owner, Magna Entertainment Corp., and the Ohio Division of the Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association.

Once again Thistledown will conduct 7&7 programs with either River Downs or Beulah Park. Each track will hold seven races, share a single simulcast signal, and commingle their exotic wagering pools. There will be an early and late daily double, and exactas, trifectas, and superfectas on all races. Rolling pick threes will start with the first race. The Super High Five will be introduced his year and will be offered on the last race daily.

Racing will be conducted Thursdays through Mondays until Sept. 11, when Thursdays will be dropped from the schedule. The lone exception is a special holiday card on Wednesday, Sept. 3.

The top trainers from 2007 are all back this year. Last year's leader, Jeff Radosevich (94 winners), has 45 stalls. Rodney Faulkner, runner-up with 61 winners, has a string of 34. The trainer with the most stalls is Burton Sipp, who finished fourth last year with 47 winners. He has shipped in 50 horses.

A trio of newcomers have 30 stalls each: Laura Jackson (the wife of longtime Michigan top trainer James Jackson), John Rupert, and Dale Retelle.

Because there will be no racing in Michigan until at least July, when the new Pinnacle Downs track is scheduled to open near Detroit, a number of trainers who would normally have raced at Great Lakes Downs will instead be stabled here, including Gerald Bennett, Ron Allen Sr., Rupert, Retelle, and Jackson.

The top five riders of the 2007 season will all be returning: Scott Spieth (106 winners), Luis Gonzalez (104), Jeffrey Skerrett (86), Weldon Cloninger Jr. (85), and Victor Urieta (65). Thistledown regulars Anne Sanguinetti, Jane Magrell, Christian Pilares, Lyndon Hannigan, and Anthony Dailey will also be on hand. Newcomers include Octavio Bernal, Ricardo Barrios, and Glenmore Mayhew.

Seventeen stakes will be run at the meet, with the highlight being the Grade 2, $300,000 Ohio Derby on May 31. Thistledown will also host the Best of Ohio championship series on Oct. 4, which consists of five stakes worth a total of $425,000.

Other top races are the $100,000 Cleveland Gold Cup on June 28 and two $75,000 stakes, the Rose DeBartolo Memorial on Aug. 30 and the Governor's Buckeye Handicap on Sept. 1.

Both parking and admission to the grandstand are free. Post time each day is 1:05 p.m. Eastern.