Mixed-Meet Handle Up; 2007 Schedule Debated in Iowa

The mixed meet at Prairie Meadows Racetrack & Casino experienced a 12.5% increase in overall betting per day, but a 4.6% drop in on-track wagering.

Excluding July 13, when the program was canceled after one race due to track conditions, the meet that ended Sept. 9 averaged $503,386 per day in wagering for 35 days, compared with $447,255 in 2005. On-track betting dropped to $56,289 per day from $59,034.

The track and horsemen's groups have yet to agree on a contract for 2007. Horse owners want to change the racing schedule, while track officials seem inclined to stick with the current one: a 45-day Thoroughbred-only meet starting in April, followed by a 36-day Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse season from July to early September. One possible change would be to reduce the Thoroughbred meet from 10 races per day to nine.

"The format worked out pretty well for us," Prairie Meadows general manager Gary Palmer said. "We had fuller fields (in the second meet)."

The Thoroughbred meet was hurt by a lack of horses and short fields. The second meet, which offered five Thoroughbred and five Quarter Horse races a day, was too short to suit Quarter Horse owners and didn't have enough races for Thoroughbred interests.

"This didn't work this year," said trainer Kelly Von Hemel, a member of the Iowa Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association board of directors. "If we get a full meet that goes through (September), people will show up. People said they'd come here if they had a stable situation and would not be kicked out on July 4. You would fill the stalls, you would have fuller fields."

The Thoroughbred proposal is to start with nine Thoroughbred races per day, and then go to eight races while adding in Quarter Horse racing in mid-June, after Remington Park's Quarter Horse season ends. The number of Quarter Horses races would depend on what the owners want.

The Iowa Quarter Horse Racing Association has two variations: The first is to start with Thoroughbreds only and phase in Quarter Horses in mid-June with three races a day for 11 days, increasing that to four races per day for the last 45 days. Or, the association wants 51-52 days with four Quarter Horse races per day.

"We would prefer almost anything over what we had this year," said Ray Shattuck, a Thoroughbred owner from Johnston, Iowa. "The second meet was very disappointing for Iowa owners and breeders."