BANGOR, Maine — Four years ago, Bangor Raceway experimented with afternoon post times. Three years ago, it completely broke with tradition and switched from 7 to 3 p.m. posts.
This year, the Bangor Historic Track is splitting the difference.
“We’ve changed our post times from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Mondays and Tuesdays and to 6 p.m. on Fridays,” said Mike Hopkins, Bangor Raceway’s director of racing operations. “We think it’ll be better for racing fans because most people get out of work around 4 or 5.”
“I think it’ll be a little better,” said race secretary Fred Nichols. “Personally, I’ve always liked the nighttime racing with a 7 p.m. post better, but I hope splitting the difference will prove to be the ideal time.”
Bangor Raceway officially opens its 129th racing season Monday with a nine-race program, but the grandstand will be open to racing fans from 2 to 10 p.m. Saturday for live simulcast racing featuring the Kentucky Derby.
Another change this year is the total number of race dates, which is up by one.
“We now have 55 race dates because we just had a request approved to add a race card on Sept. 29 for the finish of the annual Fireball Run Adventurally race,” Hopkins said.
Fans will have the chance to go from watching the finish of one type of horsepower race to another as the Fireball Run is an eight-day, 2,500-mile car race which will finish on the Bass Park grounds.
Bangor Raceway also will have traditional holiday race programs on Independence Day and Labor Day.
Both Hopkins and Nichols say they expect the supply of horses qualified to race this season to be better than last year.
“It was adequate last year,” said Nichols. “This year, it’s a little early to say, but from what I’ve seen, the quality of the horses racing with us is higher. Last year, we tried to have an open class, which is the highest [caliber] we have, for mares, but hardly had enough to race. This year we already have a full field on opening day.”
Hopkins and Nichols said they also expect an increase in the number of Canadian owners and drivers racing horses at Bangor this year.
“The barns are all full already,” said Hopkins.
The Raceway saw more renovations in the offseason as the old barn commonly referred to as Barn B had its leaky roof replaced with a new metal one. A new water supply system also was installed.
And four years after a wet track forced a six-week delay in the start of the racing season at Bangor, conditions are drastically improved.
“We got a great jump on it this year with a mild winter and a dry spring, and put down a lot of stone dust,” Hopkins said. “It’s three seconds faster. The drivers are really excited about it.”
Racing will be simulcast simultaneously at both Bangor Raceway’s grandstand and at Hollywood Casino Hotel and Raceway across the street during Bangor’s racing season.
“Having the racebook open at Hollywood has already been a benefit to us. Our handle has increased 35 percent since it opened,” Hopkins said.