Spring racing begins at Cherokee Casino Will Rogers Downs on March 16 and with the races comes the arrival of high-earning competitors and nationally recognized trainers to compete neck and neck on the track.
The Thoroughbred spring meet runs through May 26. Monday and Tuesday races begin March 16 at 1:15 p.m., both days featuring 10 races.
Will Rogers Downs is beginning a new twilight series each Saturday beginning April 4. With the exception of the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, the Saturday races will kick off at 3:30 p.m., with eight races each day.
“We are excited about changing up Saturday tradition,” said Jesse Ullery, racing secretary for Cherokee Casino Will Rogers Downs. “We’re beginning a new a twilight racing series. It will begin our Saturday races a little later and finish near dusk with live entertainment. Imagine a Saturday evening party to close out the races.”
The third running of the Wilma Mankiller Memorial and the ninth running of the Clem McSpadden Memorial Route 66 start the stakes races off with $50,000 purses on April 6 and 7.
“We’ve made some major changes to our calendar, so our major stakes races will run on Monday and Tuesday,” said Ullery. “That should lead to more exposure nationwide and help get more simulcast coverage.”
The seventh running of the Cherokee Casino Will Rogers Downs Classic Distaff Sprint and the third running of the TRAO Classic Sprint will be featured April 27 and 28. The fourth consecutive Oklahoma Stallion Stakes Colts and Geldings Division and the Oklahoma Stallion Fillies Division run on May 2 with $50,000 purses each. The spring meet closes on May 25 and 26 with the running of the third annual RPDC Classic Distaff and the fourth annual Cherokee Nation Classic Cup, guaranteeing $50,000 and $55,000, respectively.
During the spring of 2014, $20.5 million was wagered on live racing at the Downs.
Will Rogers Downs, which is in its ninth year of operation, had 11 days surpass $1 million in total handle and set a single-day record of wagering $1.5 million during the 2014 Thoroughbred meet.
For the 2015 season, trainer Roger Engel is back to defend his leading trainer title, but Ullery said he’s going to face tough competition.
“We have a couple tough guys coming in to challenge him,” Ullery said. “Karl Broberg is one of the nationally ranked top trainers and wins a lot of races. It’ll be interesting to see him compete. Trainers Joe Offolter, Boyd Caster, Martin Lozano and Scott Young are still competing, as well. It’s going to be fun to watch.”
Cherokee Casino Will Rogers Downs is located three miles east of Claremore on Highway 20. For more information, visit www.cherokeecasino.com or call 918-283-8800.