Friday, September 24, 1999

Turfway has party air for Day of Champions

Infield is open; rail is closer

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        FLORENCE — It's the day before some big races, and Turfway Park looks a little different: Tents stand in the infield.

        That might not seem like much, but the tents for Saturday's Kentucky Cup Day of Champions are among the first signs of what officials hope will be new life for the track. They hope opening the infield, like Churchill Downs does on Kentucky Derby day, will create a party atmosphere and maybe bring more and younger folks to the track.

        The day of racing is the first big chance for the track's new owners — Keeneland, Dreamport and Harrah's — to show off some of their ideas for changing the face of horse racing. The trio bought the track in March.

        “A lot of this new stuff is still in the infant stages,” said Robert Forbeck, track spokesman. “We want people to know we've got things going on, but we're just getting started.”

        The $1.15 million day's signature race is the Ken tucky Cup Classic, which ended in a dead heat last year between 1997 Derby winner Silver Charm and Wild Rush. It was the first dead heat in the race's five-year history.

        This year, The Classic's two favorites, Classic Cat and Cat Thief, come from the barns of popular trainers Bob Baffert and D. Wayne Lukas. Post time for the day is noon.

        Thanks to another recent change at the track, Saturday racegoers will be able to walk right up to the rail to watch the horses go by. Patrons are now about 30 feet closer to the thundering hooves and flying dirt than they used to be able to get. It's a cosmetic change, track president Bob Elliston said, that also promotes the bigger purpose of bringing more people closer to the sport.

        Leaning on the rail has been a hit since live racing resumed Sept. 8, Mr. Forbeck said, so officials hope that means their ideas are working.

        “Two minutes to post, people are lined up all the way down the rail. It's great. Just watch on Saturday.”


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