01/23/2013 4:22PM

Turfway Park notes: February race dates added

Barbara D. Livingston
Shane Sellers has six mounts Friday night at Turfway Park.

Officials at Turfway Park will add four days of racing next month, thereby eliminating the two dark weekends that were originally scheduled for the northern Kentucky track.

Feb. 15-16 and 22-23 were supposed to be dark, but Turfway reserved them as provisional dates in its formal request last fall to the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission. “We’ve decided to go on and use them,” general manager Chip Bach said Wednesday.

Bach said the deciding factors were the strong field sizes and a desire by horsemen to use the dates, along with an encouraging uptick in ontrack attendance for special events on Friday nights.

“We had a band here last Friday night called the ‘Naked Karate Girls,’ and they’re four guys fully clothed,” Bach said with a laugh. “I believe there were more people in the grandstand than I’ve seen in my 14 years here. We want to keep the continuity we’ve got going and keep building on it.”

After operating on a three-day race week in January, Turfway will go mostly to two-day (Fridays and Saturdays) weeks for the next two months. The winter-spring meet ends March 30.

Keeping those last two February weekends dark would have meant no racing for a 19-day period, from Feb. 9 to March 1.

Bach said he expects the commission to grant its approval in the near future.

Opportunity for Sellers

With leading jockey Norberto Arroyo Jr. away until Saturday while serving the final day of a three-day suspension, Shane Sellers figures to have a productive Friday night with his six mounts, four of which are for perennial leading trainer Mike Maker.

Sellers, the highly-accomplished veteran who is easing back into riding while living and working on his farm in Versailles, Ky., has won with 5 of 14 mounts at the winter-spring meet. That includes a win last Saturday aboard Lotta Lovin in the Likely Exchange Stakes for Maker.

Arroyo, who into this weekend led the meet standings with 18 wins from 56 mounts, was suspended for a careless riding infraction on Jan. 11.

A place to work

Turfway horsemen are actively pursuing an agreement with the track to be able to use it this year as an off-season training facility. The need is great for local horsemen with the temporary closing of nearby River Downs, which will not be open for racing or training while being converted into a racino this year.

The Kentucky division of the Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association issued a statement this week saying they hope to recruit enough horses to make the plan viable. Turfway has said it will agree to keep the barn area open if enough day-rate money can be raised by way of a sufficient number of horses being committed to stay there.

◗ Gripey Sarah registered her third straight win last Friday night in a race that happened to bring together a pretty unusual field of $5,000 claimers: all but two of the 10 fillies and mares in the six-furlong race were coming off a victory.

Gripey Sarah, a 5-year-old mare owned and trained by Benjie Larue in western Kentucky, returned $7.80 as a lukewarm favorite.

◗ A pair of $26,000 allowances anchor the 10-race Friday card at Turfway. Sellers and Maker have the favorite in Smokinindaboysroom in race 7 while Iron King and Antique Wedding are among a full and well-matched field in race 9. First post is 5:30 p.m. Eastern.

There is no stakes race at Turfway this weekend. The next stakes is the second of four in the annual 3-year-old series, the newly-named 96ROCK Stakes on Feb. 2. The $50,000 race goes at one mile.