04/19/2006 12:00AM

Three tracks get season started

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Prairie Meadows in Altoona, Iowa, Emerald Downs in Auburn, Wash., and Indiana Downs in Shelbyville, Ind., all begin their live racing seasons on Friday.

Emerald Downs will be celebrating its 10th anniversary this season. The 91-day meet will continue through Oct 1 and be topped by the Grade 3, $250,000 Longacres Mile on Aug. 20.

A strong meet is expected at Prairie Meadows, where purses will be increased approximately 35 percent from last year, to $250,000 a day under a new contract between the Iowa Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association and the track. The Grade 2, $300,000 Prairie Meadows Cornhusker Breeders Cup Handicap on July 1 is the highlight of the meet.

Indiana Downs racing secretary Butch Cook hopes to average nine horses per race this season. He got off to a good start when 131 horses were entered for the 12-race opening day card. Purses at Indiana Downs, which is in its fourth season, will average $95,000 a day.