The sixth season of harness racing at Hollywood Dayton Raceway will be contested on what, almost certainly, will now be “the fastest track in Ohio.”
At least that’s how track officials there see it after an extensive, just-completed renovation of the racing surface on 5/8 mile oval.
The 78-day meet opens Monday with a 2:15 p.m. matinee and concludes with evening racing on December 28.
Two marquee events have been added to this year’s schedule, both of them run on special Sunday matinees. The Buckeye Stallion Series will be held on Sept 29 and the Ohio County Fair Finals will be on October 13.
The highlight of the racing season should again be a twin bill of Friday, Sept,27 headliners: The Dayton Pacing Derby and the Dayton Trotting Derby.
The pair of $150,000 races annually attracts the best drivers and horses in North America. This year 16 horses with at least $1 million in winnings are eligible for the two races.
Last spring, Jason Bluhm took over as the director of racing at the track. A native of Plain City, he spent the past 13 years in a variety of positions at Tioga Downs and Vernon Downs in New York. One of his positions was as a track superintendent and those insights helped guide the track restoration here in Dayton.
Jimmy Shelton, the track superintendent at Miami Valley Racing, was brought in as a consultant on the massive task here. In the pat he worked with Bluhm at Tioga Downs and with Charles E. Coons & Sons, the leading builder of tracks in North America.
“We just rebuilt and reshaped the track to its original specifications,” Bluhm said. “The racing surface looked a little worn down and it didn’t have the banking it was supposed to any more. We just freshened the material on the track and livened it up.
“We brought the banking back up to its original 12 degrees. You need the banking so you can carry your speed through the turns.
“It kind of like they do in NASCAR when they repave a track, it speeds it up. And here along with the speed, it will be safer.”
Last season, racing was canceled a few times because of issues with the rain and drivers considering the track too slippery.
Those problems should be alleviated this season said racing secretary Gregg Keidel.
“Over the first five years here, the dirt on the track moved around so it needed to be reconditioned,” he said. “They drilled thousands of holes, a foot apart, all of the way around the track to determine how much cushion and base we had. Some places there was a surplus and it was too deep and other places they had to add to get it to the right depth.”
When they ran some qualifying races five days ago, Keidel said the new track got some stellar reviews:
“The regular drivers we have here just raved about it. They said it will be the fastest track in Ohio.”
Hollywood Dayton’s regular five-days-a-week racing schedule will include Monday and Tuesday matinees at 2:15 pm and Thursday, Friday and Saturday night racing with a 6:15 p.m. post time.
The only exceptions will be three dark days Sept 16-19 in deference to the running of the fabled Little Brown Jug in Delaware, Ohio and a switch to a Wednesday race card on Nov. 27 instead of running on Thursday, Nov. 28, which is Thanksgiving.
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