The first race of the inaugural meet at Presque Isle Downs may very well tell the tale: There is lots of money up for grabs, and horses are coming from all over the place.
Presque Isle, near Erie, Pa., will offer 25 nights of racing from Sept. 1-29 with average daily purses of about $500,000. The slot-machine operation at the racetrack commenced earlier this year, and about $13 million in purse money is available for the 2007 meet.
Next year, Presque Isle will race 100 days from spring through the fall.
The first race, appropriately named the Inaugural Stakes, carries a purse of $100,000. The stakes, for 3-year-old fillies at six furlongs, lured a field of 10. The fillies have shipped to northwestern Pennsylvania from their training bases in Delaware, Illinois, Kentucky, Maryland, Ohio, and Oklahoma.
Interestingly, one of the Inaugural entrants, Coy Coyote, has been in training with Michael Dickinson at his Tapeta Farm in Maryland. Dickinson’s Tapeta Footings synthetic surface will debut for racing purposes at Presque Isle, and is currently being installed at Golden Gate Fields in Northern California.
Horses have been training on the Tapeta surface at Presque Isle for several weeks.
Coy Coyote, owned by Dick Bonnycastle’s Harlequin Ranches, won last year’s Mazarine Stakes (Can-III) at Woodbine and in her last start finished sixth in the grade I Coaching Club American Oaks at Belmont Park in late July. The Honour and Gloryfilly has been training well at Tapeta Farm for Dickinson, who has been on hand at Presque Isle to monitor installation of the surface.
Another filly who seems well suited for Presque Isle is Dick Colvin and William Gould’s Miss A. Bomb, who won the Gowell Stakes on Polytrack at Turfway Park last December and has an excellent record on Polytrack. The Lemon Drop Kid filly finished a good fourth in her last start, the grade III Azalea Breeders’ Cup Stakes at Calder Race Course, for trainer Grant Hofmans.
Purses for the eight opening-night races total $332,000 in the condition book, but under a scheme agreed to by track management and the Pennsylvania Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, they will be 75% higher than the advertised amount. That puts total purses for opening night well over $500,000.
In all, 78 horses were entered for the Sept. 1 opener. Post time is 5:30 p.m. EDT for all programs. The track is dark on Tuesdays.
Presque Isle, owned by MTR Gaming Group, which also owns Mountaineer Race Track & Gaming Resort in West Virginia, will offer the first live racing in the Erie area since 1987, when Erie Downs, formerly known as Commodore Downs, closed.