Thursday, March 23, 2000

Turfway puts on glitz for Spiral Stakes

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        FLORENCE — All over Turfway Park, workers are putting together the track for its spring showcase event.

  The Spiral Stakes is Saturday at Turfway Park. Events begin at 7 a.m.:
  • Racing: Starts at noon. The $600,000 Spiral Stakes goes off at 4:15 p.m.
  • Tickets: General admission is $10 with free parking. Some tickets are still available for various areas. VIP tent tickets go for $150 and include food, open bar and a jazz band. 371-0200.
  • For kids: New this year is Sunrise at the Spiral. From 7 to 9 a.m., people can watch horses on the track, eat breakfast and talk to trainers and jockeys. Children can take pony rides, get their faces painted and get their pictures taken wearing jockeys' silks. Everyone up early for the Sunrise event will get into the day's racing free.
  • Giveaways: A Chevrolet Blazer, $6,000 diamond necklace, Opening Day tickets, baseballs autographed by Ken Griffey Jr., trips to Harrah's in Las Vegas and $5,000 to bet on a Spiral Stakes horse.
  • A famous horse: Cigar, the all-time richest thoroughbred and two-time Horse of the Year winner, will be paraded around the Turfway track about 3:15 p.m. Now retired at Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, he won just shy of $10 million in his career.
  • If you don't go: The Spiral Stakes live broadcast with Jim McKay begins at 4 p.m. on ABC-TV, Ch. 9.
        Florists arrange roses, landscapers mulch, caterers set up grills, window washers clean glass. Everything is for the track's big day — the $600,000 Spiral Stakes on Saturday that draws thousands across Greater Cincinnati to Northern Kentucky's piece of horse racing action.

        “The place is shaping up pretty well,” Bob Elliston, track president, said Wednesday.

        The 1-mile race is a stepping stone for 3-year-old thoroughbreds being considered for the Kentucky Derby. That's its importance in the horse racing world.

        Just as important locally, Turfway is a track trying to attract new and younger fans. So the Spiral Stakes is the best, most gussied-up the track gets — all in hopes of enticing newcomers to the track and showing them that horse racing is fun.

        Some new efforts on that front this year: a morning

        breakfast event — Sunrise at the Spiral — at which kids can meet jockeys, try on their silks and take pony rides; a magician, tarot card reader and palm reader in the VIP tent; and giveaways of a Chevrolet Blazer, $6,000 diamond necklace and other prizes.

        “We decided to add a little fun to the VIP tent,” said Leah Bruin, a track spokeswoman. “And the Sunrise for kids is going to be really special.”

        Officials hope to top the attendance record set last year when 21,028 fans showed up for the Gallery Stakes. That Houston furniture seller pulled its sponsorship after the race, saying linking horse racing with trying to sell couches over the Internet wasn't a great idea. This year's race goes off without a corporate sponsor, some thing track officials think the average fan will hardly notice.

        This year's name, the Spiral Stakes, is actually a throwback to years past. The race was called the Spiral in 1972 when the track was still Latonia. It kept that name until bourbon maker Jim Beam stepped in as sponsor a decade later. The Jim Beam Stakes ran 17 years.

        The post position draw takes place this morning. The likely favorite is Archer City Slew, a dark colt who won the San Vicente Stakes in California last month.


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