Ohio Derby Regains Graded Status; Daily Purses to Increase
The excitement of live Thoroughbred racing returns to JACK Thistledown Racino Monday, May 1, opening a 101-day meet that extends through Oct. 21.
JACK Thistledown will card eight races each Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, with first post at 1:40 p.m. each day. Highlighting the meet are 17 stakes races, many of which honor horsemen and horses prominent in the track’s 87-year history.
The centerpiece of the meet is the 83rd running of the Grade 3 $500,000 Ohio Derby on June 24. The Ohio Derby has the distinction of being the only graded stakes race in Ohio. In recent years the trophy has gone to such top performers as multiple graded stakes winners Smooth Air, Caleb’s Posse, Title Contender, Prospective, Delightful Kiss and Gone Astray.
Another highlight is the second running of the Lady Jacqueline Stakes, an open race for fillies and mares that carries a $200,000 purse. Also a mile and an eighth, the Lady Jacqueline runs Aug. 19.
“We’re excited about the opening of racing here at JACK Thistledown,” said Director of Racing David Ellsworth. “We’re especially pleased that the Ohio Derby is a graded race this year, and we’re expecting the Lady Jacqueline to eventually become another signature race for us, especially given its position leading into Breeders’ Cup season. We expect purses to increase about seven and a half percent over last year, to about $140,000 per day, and we’re ready to get going.”
Among trainers returning are perennial powerhouse Jeff Radosevich, whose allotment increased from 40 to 50 stalls this year, and Butch Marshall, whose stalls increased to 25. Gary Johnson, a leading trainer who saddled horses for about 30 years before stepping away in 2008, returns this year with a string of 25. Multiple stakes winning trainer Jay Bernardini is stabling at Thistledown for the first time.
About 820 horses are already on the grounds, about 15 percent more than last year at this time. When contingents return from winter quarters in Tampa and on farms, Ellsworth expects that number to hit 1,000.
Doors open to the racing floor and track apron at 11:30 a.m. Wagering windows open at 12:30 p.m. Admission to the races and parking are free. Children are welcome if accompanied by an adult. The minimum age for wagering on horse races in Ohio is 18.
The track will host special events throughout the racing season, beginning with a Kentucky Derby party Saturday, May 6. In addition to Thistledown’s live races that day, fans will enjoy the full card from Churchill Downs, including the simulcast of the 143rd Kentucky Derby, food trucks on the apron, a hat contest and the Derby’s signature drink, the Mint Julep, in souvenir glasses. More information about Kentucky Derby day events is available by calling (216) 662-8600.
The Thistledown racing season is technically four consecutive meets, each named to honor a track important to the history of racing in Northeast Ohio: Summit, named for the county that was home to Ascot Park; Thistledown; Randall, honoring the track that sat across from Thistledown; and Cranwood, nodding to nearby Cranwood Park. Racing at the four racetracks consolidated at the present JACK Thistledown facility in the 1960s.
More information is available at www.JACKEntertainment.com/Thistledown/Racing.