Live racing returns to Will Rogers Downs

BY STAFF REPORTS
02/23/2012 08:20 AM
CLAREMORE, Okla. – Cherokee Casino Will Rogers Downs will open its horse racing season on March 5 and run it through May 19.

Coming off its most successful year in five years of operation, WRD officials said they believe they have a new equation to make 2012 even better.

The thoroughbred spring meet will run at 12:30 p.m. every Saturday, Monday and Tuesday. Each race day features 10 races.

In addition to a stakes schedule that features two new races bringing the total to eight, racing officials moved four of the stakes to Mondays and Tuesdays to benefit from a bigger worldwide simulcast audience.

“Our simulcast signal goes through the roof on weekdays,” Kelly Cathey, Cherokee Casino Will Rogers Downs racing secretary, said. “We are up to nearly 700 locations showing our races, including tracks in Europe, Mexico and Canada. The more tracks that show our races, the bigger the handle, which means more money for the horsemen and more money for us to reinvest into our track.”

Stakes races begin on April 9, with the sixth running of the Clem McSpadden Memorial Route 66 Stakes and the Wilma Mankiller Memorial Stakes. April 23-24 features the fourth running of the Cherokee Casino Will Rogers Downs Classic Distaff Sprint and the TRAO Classic Sprint.

The second running of the Oklahoma Stallion Colts and Geldings Division Stakes and the Oklahoma Stallion Fillies Division Stakes run on May 5. Closing out the spring meet on May 19 are the inaugural Cherokee Nation Classic Cup and the RPDC Classic Distaff.
Inclement weather had postponed the start of the racing meet the last few years, so track officials chose to schedule this year’s start date in March. The extra time and lack of snow have provided workers an opportunity to prepare the track without being rushed or forced to wait for snow to melt.

“The horsemen say the track is in outstanding condition,” Cathey said. “The track is in the best shape it’s ever been since we opened. The mild winter has played a part, but Jake Wilson, our track superintendent, and all his guys have done a phenomenal job getting it ready for the spring meet.”

Will Rogers Downs earned more than $16 million in live racing, with $14 million coming in the spring. During the spring meet, 12 of 32 race days surpassed $500,000 in total wagering. On April 4, the track had a record one-day total of $958,163.

Cathey said with some of the stakes races moving to weekdays, this year could see multiple days that surpass last year’s one-day record total.

“If everything goes our way, I believe we’ll break $1 million more than once,” Cathey said. “We have a strong competitive field of horses and jockeys that are going to make our races really entertaining.”

Will Rogers Downs is located three miles east of Claremore on Highway 20. For more information, visit cherokeestarrewards.com or call 918-283-8800.

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