04/10/2007 12:00AM

Thistledown season shortened again


NORTH RANDALL, Ohio - Racing returns to northern Ohio on Thursday when Thistledown begins its 136-day season, which continues through Nov. 19.

This will be the shortest live season at Thistledown since the 7&7 - the practice of alternating races and sharing a simulcast signal with another Ohio track - was introduced in 1993. Thistledown raced 187 days from 1993 through 2005. Last year, as part of an effort to reduce racing dates in Ohio, Thistledown cut back to a 156-day meet.

Thistledown will participate in the 7&7 for most of its season. It will partner with River Downs on selected dates until Labor Day - except for April 14 and 21 when it will team with Beulah Park. Thistledown will race solo for almost all of September, then offer 7&7 cards with Beulah Park in October and November except on Sundays and Mondays, when it will race alone.

As usual, the Thistledown schedule will be broken up into the Summit, Thistledown, Randall, and Cranwood race meets.

Thirteen stakes are scheduled at Thistledown this year, with the highlight being the 73rd running of the Grade 2, $300,000 Ohio Derby on June 2. The stakes schedule also includes the $100,000 Cleveland Gold Cup, June 30; the $75,000 Rose DeBartolo Memorial, Sept. 1; and the $75,000 Governor's Buckeye Cup, Sept. 3.

Director of racing Bill Couch reports that every trainer who finished in the top 10 last year will be on hand for the 2007 season. Topping that list is Jeff Radosevich, who won with 110 of his 448 starters last year. The remainder of the top 10 are Rodney Faulkner, Burton Sipp, Miguel Feliciano, Joe Faulkner, Joe Shuman, Rod Madrigal Sr., Tim Hamm, Joe Martin, and Robin Schuster.

A strong addition to the training colony is Gerald Bennett, who hasn't raced here since 2002. Bennett won the Summit training title in 1987 and is currently second in the trainer standings at Tampa Bay Downs.

Last year's top rider Scott Spieth is back. Spieth has won nine of the last 12 meet titles here over the last three years. Also on hand are Luis Gonzalez, Luis Martinez Jr., Filmer Munaylla, Anne Sanguinetti, Jeff Skerrett, Christian Pilares, Ernesto Oro, and Irwin Rosendo, who all finished in the top 10 last year.

Admission and parking are free throughout the meet and first post is 1:05 p.m. Eastern.