Courtesy of Thistledown

Ohio Derby Has Firm Spot on 2010 Calendar

Unlike last year, the Ohio Derby has a firm date for 2010.

Unlike last year, when it was scheduled on the fly, the Ohio Derby already has a spot on the calendar at Thistledown for 2010.

The Derby, with a smaller purse and lower grade, will be run July 31, Thistledown officials said Feb. 23. The Cleveland-area track released its full stakes schedule, which again includes the Best of Ohio championship series Oct. 2.

In 2009, the $150,000 Ohio Derby (gr. II) was held Oct. 3, about six weeks after the Ohio State Racing Commission ordered the race be run. It had been dropped from the schedule because of purse issues.

This year, the race has been downgraded to grade III, and the purse reduced to $100,000. The distance was changed from 1 1/8 miles to 1 1/16 miles.

“We’ll regain the grade II ranking,” Thistledown director of racing Bill Couch said in a statement.”We’re not that far off point-wise (in the grading system). In the meantime, we’ll aggressively recruit the Midwest to make sure the Derby field is a solid one.”

Couch said the shorter distance could prove attractive to horsemen, and holding the Derby in late July keeps it away from other major 3-year-old events on the national schedule.

Thistledown will offer more than $1 million in stakes for 2010. As usual most of the stakes are for Ohio-registered horses.

Thistledown still doesn’t have an official agreement with the Ohio Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association for its 2010 meet, but track officials said Feb. 23 negotiations “are going well.” The OSRC awarded Thistledown 122 racing days for this year, from April 23-Nov. 6.

Harrah’s Entertainment has an option to purchase Thistledown from Magna Entertainment Corp. but is waiting to see if there is any action on racetrack gaming in Ohio. The casino company hasn’t publicly indicated it plans to back out of the deal.