Belterra Park Gaming & Entertainment Center
|Belterra Park Gaming & Entertainment Center|
|Address||6301 Kellogg Avenue|
|Opening date||May 1, 2014|
|Total gaming space||48,000 sq ft (4,500 m2)|
Belterra Park opened in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1925. It was opened 15 years after the closing of a previous track in Cincinnati, Old Oakley Race Course. The race track sits right along the banks of the Ohio River. The track was originally named Coney Island and is adjacent to Coney Island Amusement Park.
The famous horse Seabiscuit made two appearances at the track in 1936. His trainer “Silent Tom” Smith shipped the horse in from Detroit with jockey “Red” Pollard for two consecutive starts. On October 3, 1936, he ran third in the Western Hills Handicap and two weeks later he ran third in the Eastern Hills Handicap.
The track managed to survive the disastrous Cincinnati flood of 1937 and re-opened under the name of "River Downs." Races were and still are held primarily in summer. The 7-furlong turf course was created in 1956, making River Downs the 13th track in America with a grass racing strip. The infield grass course has drawn rave reviews from horsemen across the country. Hall of Fame jockey Laffit Pincay, Jr. once quoted, "This is the best turf course I've ever ridden on," after he rode Highland Crystal to victory in the Budweiser Breeders' Cup there.
On May 17, 1976 an apprentice jockey won the eighth race at River Downs aboard Red Pipe. It was the race that would launch the career of one of the world's most renowned riders, Steve Cauthen. "The Kid", as he was called, went on to be the leading apprentice and overall rider at River Downs that season. He later rode Affirmed to become the youngest rider to sweep the Triple Crown. He eventually became a champion rider in Europe and may forever be the only jockey ever to win the Irish Derby, French Derby, English Derby and Italian Derby in addition to capturing America's "Run for the Roses."
During the 1980s, the Miller Genuine Draft Cradle Stakes grew to become the richest race for 2-year-olds in the state of Ohio. The 1983 winner, Coax Me Chad, went on to a second-place finish behind Swale in the Kentucky Derby the following year. The 1984 "Cradle" winner did his predecessor one better – he won the Kentucky Derby. Spend A Buck not only won the Derby, but went on to win ten races and over $4.2 million, eventually being crowned Horse of the Year.
Over the decades, the wooden grandstand began to strain. River Downs Jockey Club Inc., who purchased the facility in 1975, elected to construct an entirely new grandstand, beginning immediately at the end of the 1988 racing season.
Management kept the style of the traditional open-air grandstand. Wooden benches were replaced with well-spaced stadium seats, a game room was installed next to a new gift shop, and escalators ferry the bettors to an expanded mezzanine level which features numerous concession stands and Finnigans Pub.
In addition to the $16 million grandstand, the paddock was doubled in size, accentuating the River Downs' philosophy that fans like to be close to the horses that they will gamble their money on. Following the 1989 reconstruction of the grandstand, several million dollars were invested in upgrading the Clubhouse. A new air-conditioning unit was installed, over 2500 television monitors were put in place, and the upper Clubhouse was extensively renovated with decor that included cherry wood and Italian marble.
On September 19, 1996, state legislation finally allowed Full Card simulcasting to take place in the state. In a matter of weeks after the live meet ended, the River Downs Clubhouse became the country's most modern simulcasting center – the River Downs RaceBook. Thoroughbred and harness racing from across the nation is broadcast over a 500 set semi-state-of-the-art television system that features over one hundred 40-inch, high-resolution direct-view televisions.
With the advent of increased simulcasting and the innovative Twin Seven Supercard, River Downs has installed a unique 110 channel in-house television system that allows the viewers access to race replays of every race on a single kiosk, advance viewing of upcoming simulcast race conditions and preview shows, and changing odds formats and program changes. River Downs is also the first track to feature a channel showing a "minutes to post" chronological display of all tracks.
Only months after the renovation of the River Downs RaceBook, the track fell victim to the Cincinnati flood of 1997. Waters flowed over the banks of the Ohio River in March at a rate that had not been witnessed for over 50 years. The entire lower level of the Clubhouse was flooded, as was the entire first level of the grandstand, office area and barn area. The track lost only 18 days of operation, however, before the upper level of the RaceBook was back in operation. The track was reopened on schedule for live racing in late April. In addition to a completely new lower-level Clubhouse, the backstretch underwent extensive improvements including a newly designed and renovated racing office and kitchen area. 
In January 2011, the track was purchased by Pinnacle Entertainment, Inc. In 2013, Pinnacle acquired Ameristar Casinos, expanding its portfolio to operate in nine states with 16 locations including 14 casinos and two racetracks 
Under new track management, the two biggest events on the stakes calendar, the Cradle and Bassinet, were canceled in 2011 to save purse money for the horsemen’s account. They are keeping open the option to reinstate both of them in future years. The highlight of the 2011 meet is the $75,000 Queen City Oaks on July 16. The 2011 meet was also reduced to 85 days of racing due to flooding of the Ohio River. 
The 2013 River Downs meet was moved to Beulah Park as the racing oval and grandstand were torn down to be relocated closer to the barn area.
On October 23, 2013, officials from Pinnacle announced that River Downs would be renamed Belterra Park, effective immediately. The new Belterra Park will offer both horse racing and gaming. The gaming facility will open on May 1, 2014, with thoroughbred racing commencing shortly thereafter.
Up until 2012, racing was typically held at the track from the beginning of April until Labor Day weekend. Live racing is hosted by the Regular Guy, who along with Big Ed, perform the Regular Guy Show and handicap the cream of the crop from the Ohio racing stables.
Prior to the tear-down of the grandstand, Belterra Park's seating capacity was 9,350.
The track itself will have two courses, similar to the previous River Downs configuration: the Main Track (dirt) is a 1 mile oval; inside of this is the turf (grass) course, spanning 7 furlongs. The barns consist of 1,350 stables.
The following are stakes races run at Belterra Park:
Non-graded stakes races:
- Bassinet Stakes
- Buckeye Native Stakes
- Cradle Stakes
- Hoover Stakes
- Miss Southern Ohio Stakes
- Queen City Oaks
- Vivacious Handicap