Matt Goins

Prairie Dates Set; Horsemen Balk

Racing dates for 2008 at Prairie Meadows were approved, but not without objections.

The Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission Nov. 8 approved a plan by Prairie Meadows Racetrack and Casino for a 2008 racing season over the objections of Thoroughbred interests that wanted a longer spring meet.

As approved, the 2008 season will be similar to this year. It will start with a 47-day spring Thoroughbred meet from April 18 to July 5. It will be followed by a 43-day mixed Thoroughbred-Quarter Horse meet July 11-Sept. 20. Then there will be an 18-day harness meet Sept. 27-Oct. 25.

The Iowa Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, which negotiates Thoroughbred contracts, had sought a 51-day meet followed by a 35-day mixed meet and eight days of Quarter Horse-only racing. The extra week of racing in the 51-day Thoroughbred meet, Iowa HPBA president Leroy Gessmann said, would help Prairie Meadows lure trainers that also want to race at Remington Park in Oklahoma, whose season begins the first weekend in August.

“Horsemen that come for the Thoroughbred meet and then have to leave have no place to go,” Gessmann said. “What we’re trying to do is get (the Thoroughbred meet) further into July.”

However, Butch Hammer, president of the Iowa Quarter Horse Racing Association, said he opposed having the mixed meet shortened to 35 days with eight Quarter Horse-only days.

Prairie Meadows anticipates having $19.5 million in 2008 purse money, which goes to owners of horses that finish fifth or better in a race. Thoroughbred races will receive nearly $15.9 million in purses and Iowa-bred bonuses, with $2.8 million going to Quarter Horses. Harness racing will get $835,000 for races at Prairie Meadows, plus $1 million for county fair races.

The commission deferred approving contracts between Prairie Meadows and horse groups until January. Quarter Horse and Standardbred interests have signed three-year agreements, but Thoroughbred interests have not agreed and say they legally cannot sign more than a one-year pact.