10/02/2002 12:00AM

Thistledown: New barns are up

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NORTH RANDALL, Ohio - Five new state-of-the-art, all-weather barns, each of which will house 34 horses, were completed here last week. The barns are the biggest capital improvement made at Thistledown since Magna Entertainment purchased the track four years ago.

The open-air barns have two rows of 17 stalls positioned back to back, with the front of each stall facing a 12-foot-wide shed row walking area - wider than at most tracks - that circles the barn.

The barns are equipped with a modular panel enclosure system, which allows horsemen to pull the panels down and lock them, winterizing the barns and enclosing both the walking area and the stalls.

The stalls are 12-foot by 12-foot - wider than the stalls at most tracks - and there are eight walking machines adjacent to the barns. The barns are situated about only a three-minute walk from the equine swimming facility.

Also under construction are new escalators in the grandstand to replace the existing 25-year-old ones. The new escalators will operate between the second and sixth floors.

Management also is considering options to reopen a six-furlong turf course inside the main track, which has been closed for years.

Last year, Magna refurbished the outdoor paddock, which now offers fans an opportunity to see the horses close from an area that has picnic tables equipped with umbrellas. There also now are betting windows with mutuel clerks available in that area.

Sunday racing will conclude here this week. Thursday racing will be substituted for Sundays beginning Oct. 10.