04/16/2008 11:00PM

Silent first race to honor Morton


Even if you turn the volume control on your television or computer to its maximum setting, you won't hear anything during the running of the season's first race at Finger Lakes on Saturday afternoon.

In honor of Ross Morton, the regular track announcer during the track's first 46 years, there will be no live call for race 1, a 4 1/2-furlong sprint for older claimers. Morton, 74, died following a stroke in February.

His replacement, former longtime Northern California race caller Tony Calo, will succeed Morton, starting with Saturday's second race.

"We thought it would be appropriate to run the first race in silence as a tribute to Ross," said Steve Martin, director of marketing and gaming.

In addition, the track's refurbished winner's circle has been christened in honor of Morton, who for many years hosted a local television show on Thoroughbred racing titled "Winner's Circle."

Fans who attend opening day will also be invited to sign an oversized card that will be forwarded to Morton's family and to donate money to one of his favorite causes, the Finger Lakes Thoroughbred Adoption program.

The first Thoroughbred adoption facility ever built on the grounds of a racetrack, it will be known as the Purple Haze Center, named in honor of the contributions toward construction donated by Purple Haze Stable's Wanda Polisseni. The facility was scheduled to open Friday. It will showcase adoptable horses to the public and serve as the organization's central headquarters.

The other major improvement to the plant involves the simulcast room, where $700,000 was spent to remodel the area and upgrade the equipment to provide a much crisper picture.

On the track, the opening day feature is a $26,500 overnight handicap at 4 1/2 furlongs. Johnie Bye Night, who has 4 wins and 1 second in

5 starts locally, will be challenged by the speedy Scott Lake-trained shipper Outcashem.

Johnie Bye Night, a 6-year-old gelding who is 7 for 14 lifetime, will be making his first start since finishing second to former Kentucky Derby champion Funny Cide in the Wadsworth Memorial last July 4. He has won the last two runnings of the six-furlong George W. Barker Handicap.

Outcashem, a 19-time winner, excels in short sprints, winning the $100,000 Charles Town Dash in 2006 and the HBPA Charles Town Handicap last October with identical 102 Beyer Speed Figures. He failed to show his customary speed in his season's debut two weeks ago.

As usual, the two biggest races of the season are the $200,000 New York Breeders' Futurity, a six-furlong race on Oct. 4, and the $150,000 New York Derby for 3-year-olds on July 12.

Among the newcomers to the track this season are jockey Dennis Carr, who last rode in Northern California 11 months ago, and trainer Lonnie Arterburn, who has 14 stalls. His daughter Brittany Arterburn plans to ride at the meet.