05/02/2012 1:35PM

Thistledown: Slots decision expected soon

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NORTH RANDALL, Ohio – Thistledown begins a 122-day racing season Friday with track officials and horsemen hopeful that the suburban Cleveland track will soon be able to install 2,500 video lottery terminals. Thistledown is owned by Caesars Entertainment, which is scheduled to open a casino in downtown Cleveland on May 14 that will have 2,100 slot machines and 65 table games.

Like Thistledown, Ohio’s other Thoroughbred racetracks, Beulah Park in Columbus and River Downs in Cincinnati, are awaiting a judge’s decision on the legality of the tracks operating slot machines. Gov. John Kasich signed the racetrack gaming legislation into law in 2011 but the American Policy Roundtable, an organization based in Strongville, Ohio, has filed a lawsuit challenging it. Franklin County Common Pleas Court judge Tim Horton is expected to issue his ruling on the lawsuit before Memorial Day.

Dave Basler, executive director of the Ohio Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, said “the horsemen appreciate the efforts of Gov. Kasich and his administration for their efforts in trying to move these issues forward.”

Seventeen stakes races are scheduled at Thistledown this year, 16 of which are for Ohio-breds, The only open stakes on the schedule is the Grade 3, $100,000 Ohio Derby at 1  1/16 miles on July 7. Another highlight of the meet will be the $350,000 Best of Ohio series of races on Oct.  12. Ten of Thistledown’s stakes will be run on Friday afternoons.

The opening card features the $50,000 Dr. T.F. Classen Memorial Stakes for Ohio-accredited fillies and mares at six furlongs. Gathering Dreams, a 6-year-old mare trained by Susan Waszak with lifetime earnings of $227,713, is the horse to beat. Gathering Dreams will be making her first start since finishing fifth at Parx Racing for a $20,000 claiming tag in January. Prior to that she won a $16,000 claiming race at Parx.

Startin Something, who was beaten just a head when third behind runner-up Gathering Dreams in the Bobbie Bricker Handicap here last November, will be making her first start of the year and could be the upsetter.

Thistledown will race Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays through Nov. 10 and then conclude its season with a two-day wrap-up on Nov. 16-17. Thursdays will be added to the schedule from Sept. 6 through Nov. 8. Post time is 1:50 p.m. Eastern.