08/15/2006 11:00PM

Three-day week is a success so far


MIAMI - A three day per week live racing schedule during the height of the summer might not work for every racetrack. But the early returns on that schedule, implemented at Calder for the first time this year, seem to be favorable - and that likely means the schedule will become an annual occurrence.

With four of the six three-day weeks in the books, attendance, interstate handle, and notably field size have increased dramatically over the corresponding period last summer. Overnight purses have been raised by $2,000 to $8,000 per race to help make up for at least some of the purse money lost to horsemen as a result of the abbreviated racing schedule.

"The three day per week format has certainly accomplished a number of the things we'd hoped for," said Calder president Ken Dunn. "Especially when it comes to field sizes. We were averaging 7.06 horses per race prior to the new schedule, but even after losing 11 turf races during the first two weeks of the three-day format our average field size had increased to 9.8 starters. And we've continued to top that mark. Friday's card averages 10.6 horses per race before scratches."

Dunn said attendance, which was down 10 percent in 2006 prior to the schedule change, has been up 7 to 10 per cent during the past several weeks, while interstate handle has increased an average of 30 percent per card over the corresponding period in 2005. He also said that while total handle for the three live racing days is not the same as it would be for a regular five-day week it's "a lot closer than we'd thought it would be" going into the experiment.

"Obviously switching to this type of schedule is not the answer for every racetrack in the country but we have a uniqueness here, running an eight-month meet that gives us a natural time frame during which to cut back," said Dunn.

The question is, how will the early results affect future racing schedules at Calder?

"We won't make any evaluations until we can take a look at the numbers from the entire six weeks and even beyond," said Dunn, "because I suspect there will be a springboard effect from the three-day weeks that will continue to help our field sizes for at least a couple of weeks after we return to our regular five-day schedule."

"We have a lot of options we can consider next year, including running some four-day race weeks and implementing the Thursday-to-Monday live racing schedule we switch to here after Labor Day right from the start of the meet. I'd also have to say from the preliminary results it's a good bet we'll look at a similar abbreviated race schedule next summer, except we'd likely start two weeks after the Summit of Speed and not one week as we did this year."

Sami's Majic popular in the claim box

The claim box was overflowing before Sunday's eighth race, which resulted in a nine-way shake for the 4-5 favorite, Sami's Majic. Trainer Carl Cooper wound up winning the draw for Sami's Majic, a 5-year-old son of Kipper Kelly who finished fourth in the five-furlong turf dash while racing under a $16,000 price tag.

Cooper wasted little time getting his new acquisition back into the entries, stepping him up against $25,000 claiming opposition in Saturday's $36,000 allowance feature on the grass.

First-level allowance races top Friday card

A trio of first-level allowance races share top billing on Friday's 10-race card. The most competitive race of the three may be the fourth race of the day, a 5 1/2-furlong dash that matches top contenders Jabbok, Gold Timber, Kwondo, Bow Out, and Ice Skating. Friday's third race, which drew a full field of 3-year-olds on the turf, features a rematch between beaten Ring the Register and Elizabul, who finished second and third under similar conditions on July 30.

How's Your Halo impressive in victory

How's Your Halo served notice he will be a force to reckon with in the local 3-year-old sprint division, running away to an impressive 5 1/4-length triumph in Sunday's Eillo Stakes. A former claimer and son of Halo's Image, How's Your Halo won an early speed duel with Far West and Five Speed before drawing off with authority under jockey Juan Leyva for owner-trainer Brian Pritchard.

R Loyal Man, a two-time stakes winner this season, rallied mildly to best the others while making his first start since being transferred to trainer Eddie Plesa Jr.

Division leader Mach Ride, who defeated How's Your Halo eight weeks ago in the Valid Video Stakes, skipped the Eillo. The runner-up to odds-on favorite Too Much Bling in the Grade 2 Carry Back Stakes, he is being pointed to Saratoga's Grade 1 King's Bishop on Aug. 26.

* Nightmare Affair, upset winner of the Grade 2 Smile Sprint Handicap on July 15, worked three furlongs in 36.60 seconds on Wednesday. Nightmare Affair is scheduled to make his next start at Saratoga in the Grade 1 Forego Handicap. Pomeroy, runner-up in the Smile Sprint, breezed five furlongs in 1:01.60 from the gate Tuesday and also is expected to run in the Forego.