by Dan Johnson
Pat Pope has been hired as racing secretary at Prairie Meadows Racetrack & Casino for its 2014 season.
Currently racing secretary at Oaklawn Park, Pope was also Prairie Meadows' Thoroughbred meet racing secretary from 1997-02. He served as a steward at Prairie Meadows in 2008.
The Prairie Meadows meet begins April 18, about a week after the Oaklawn meet ends.
After graduating from the University of Arizona Race Track Industry Program, Pope began working at tracks in 1980. His other stops have included racing secretary positions at Louisiana Downs and most recently Delaware Park.
"We like his track record and I think he'll help us bring in new outfits in to race," said Derron Heldt, Prairie Meadows director of racing. "I think we have a great foundation here; we just need to build on it. With Pat's reputation in the industry, I think he has a following.
"I hope we can capitalize on that and build our program by having more open horses and maybe help us bring in new trainers."
Pope is from Sioux City, Iowa., and has a sister and two brothers that live in Iowa. He said his ties are one reason why he returned to Prairie Meadows versus going to Delaware Park for a sixth season.
"Family, and the fact that I always thought that meet would have a great niche when they finally decided what they wanted to do," Pope said of the reasons for his return. "I'm real happy to be coming back now that they have an established schedule and the money seems in place.
"So, now we have to get the word out to get some more people to make it a total destination place in the Midwest in April through August."
Prairie Meadows in 2010 extended its Thoroughbred meet to August to form a circuit with Oaklawn and Remington Park. It will pay about $15 million in purses for the meet.
"Do I think we'll get more horses than we had last year? Absolutely," Pope said. "I think we can get some people coming back that haven't been there in awhile. The goal is to let people know that it's a very good place to go for the summer, and the money's very good."
Prairie Meadows has been in the market for a racing secretary since Fred Hutton resigned last March. Quarter Horse racing secretary Chad Keller doubled as secretary for last year's Thoroughbred meet, but said at the end of the season that he wanted to concentrate on overseeing the Quarter Horse program. He will continue as an assistant during the Thoroughbred meet.