Monday-Thursday racing opens 100-date season; Sundays added July 7-Aug. 25

Presque Isle Downs & Casino has again adjusted its schedule for the 12th full season of thoroughbred racing, which opens on Monday, May 13.

Eight-race programs will be Monday through Thursday for the first eight weeks and the final seven weeks of a 23-week, 100-date season that ends Thursday, Oct. 17, the latest date the track has closed.

Sunday racing, popular in summer with local fans but the lowest day in the lucrative off-track on-line handle totals, begins July 7 and continues eight weeks until Sunday, Aug. 25. On Labor Day, Sept. 2, racing returns to four days a week for the final seven weeks.

Presque Isle Downs had run five-days-a-week racing since its first full season in 2008, but in 2018 raced Monday through Thursday the first five weeks in an effort to increase fields early in the season until more horses arrive at the track and round into form.

“We increased the four-day schedule to keep up with the populace of the barns and horses can race less frequently while we bolster the size of the racing fields which makes for stronger betting races,” said Matt Ennis, director of racing and finance director for Presque Isle Downs LLC, now owned by Churchill Downs.

In 2018, Presque Isle Downs set records for off-track handle ($78,127,458) and total handle ($83,042,838), an increase of more than $11.2 million over 2017.

Ennis, an Erie native who graduated from Mercyhurst Prep and John Carroll University, has been at Presque Isle Downs since 2006, a year before the casino opened. He took over for the former director of racing, Debbie Howells, in 2017.

“We set a record for profitability, and we are striving to make more improvements in our racing and betting handle this year,” Ennis said. “Allan Plever is back as our racing secretary, and he was a key part in writing races to increase the sizes of our fields.”

Horses were allowed on the backside of the facility Saturday, a month before the season opens on the Tapeta surface track. There are 859 stalls, same as last season.

The stakes schedule also has some changes, with the Presque Isle Debutante Stakes for 2-year-old fillies returning to increase the stakes to 13.

Also, the $200,000 Presque Isle Mile, which actually will be a mile and 1/16 for the first time, will not be run the day before Presque Isle’s signature race, the Grade 2 Masters Stakes. The Mile is scheduled for Monday, Sept. 9, and the Masters is Sept. 16.

The $100,000 Tom Ridge Stakes for 3-year-olds starts the stakes schedule on May 20. The $100,000 H.B.P.A. Stakes for fillies and mare will run the final day on Oct. 17.

First post time for the eight-race programs remains at 5:25 p.m.


Tom Ridge Stakes: Monday, May 20, $100,000, 6 furlongs, 3-year-olds.

Karl Boyes Memorial Northwestern Pa. Stakes: Monday, June 17, $100,000, 5½ furlongs, 3-years and up.

Leematt Stakes: Sunday, July 7, $100,000, for Pa. breds, 1 mile, 3-years and up.

Northern Fling Stakes: Sunday, July 7, $100,000, for Pa. breds, 1 mile, fillies and mares, 3-years and up.

Satin and Lace Stakes: Monday, Aug. 19, $100,000, 6 furlongs, fillies and mares, 3-years and up.

Malvern Rose Stakes: Monday, Sept. 9, $100,000, for Pa. breds, 3-year-old fillies.

Presque Isle Mile: Monday, Sept. 9, $200,000, 1 1/16 mile, 3-years and up.

Presque Isle Masters Stakes: Monday, Sept. 16, Grade 2, $400,000, 6½ furlongs, fillies and mares, 3-years and up.

Mark McDermott Stakes: Monday, Sept. 23, $100,000 for Pa. breds, 6 furlongs, 2-year-olds.

Mrs. Henry D. Paxson Memorial Stakes: Monday, Sept. 23, $100,000 for Pa. breds, 6 furlongs, 2-year-old fillies.

Fitz Dixon Jr. Memorial Juvenile Stakes: Wednesday, Oct. 9, $100,000, 6½ furlongs, 2-year-olds.

Presque Isle Debutante Stakes: Thursday, Oct. 10, $100,000, 6½ furlongs, 2-year-old fillies.

H.B.P.A. Stakes: Thursday, Oct. 17, $100,000, 1 mile, 70 yards, fillies and mares, 3-years and up.

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