By Amorette Allison
Horse racing fans can relax. There will be horse racing in Montana this year, in spite of rumors to the contrary. Miles City will hold races on Mother’s Day, May 13, and during Saturday and Sunday during the Bucking Horse Sale on May 19 and 20.
The State Board of Horse racing has been embroiled in controversy and financial problems. Simulcast racing and its accompanying income are no longer available to support the board. Horse racing has been cancelled at several tracks, but the Board of Governors of the Bucking Horse Sale is determined to have horse racing as part of the BHS activities.
Don Richard, director of horse racing for the BHS board, says that last fall, the board decided it was committed to racing. They informed the state board that Miles City was going to have horse races and asked for what support the state board could provide, both with financial and general assistance.
Richard said the number of horses competing and races held will be fewer than last year, “but people shouldn’t notice.” Instead of eight races on Mother’s Day, there will probably be seven. During the BHS, there will probably be six races a day instead of seven.
However, Richard has been contacted “almost daily” by owners and trainers interested in competing, so it is possible that there will be a full race card. There were a few years when horse racing wasn’t held at the BHS, but now it is very much part of the tradition. Races are held in between strings of bucking horses, with pari-mutuel betting.
The Mother’s Day races will provide for the winners to compete in championship races during the BHS.
The state will hire stewards and other track employees and will supervise all the racing activities at the Eastern Montana Fairgrounds. The state is being paid for this service by the local board.
As of the first week of April, Miles City is the only track in the state with horse racing scheduled. Billings is trying to schedule races the last week of August and first week of September, possibly in conjunction with its fair.
Richard emphasized that the most important thing is participation by racing fans.
“It’s going to be a struggle, and if we don’t get some help from the people of the state who like horse racing by attending the event, it will be much harder to continue horse racing,” he said.
Horse racing is down nationwide, but it has been making a comeback of late. The BHS board doesn’t expect to make money on the races. They hope to break close to even so that horse racing can continue to be part of the western tradition.
Dale Mahlum, chairman of the Montana Board of Horse Racing, stated, “For many years horse racing and the Bucking Horse Sale have been as one in our state. Visitors enjoy the bucking horse part of the entertainment, along with the afternoon of racing; as they say, one benefits the other.
“The horse industry that displays racing products shows how it benefits the whole horse industry,” Mahlum continued. “Miles City is unique in that if offers visitors from all over the world a weekend of pure western flavor of entertainment.
“Our segment of this weekend is so great, as it gives us the opportunity to begin the season of racing here in our state. Miles City is proud of its ability to have one of the world's greatest acts in place on Bucking Horse Sale weekend.”
Published April 18, 2012