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Championship Day canceled at Yellowstone Downs due to weather


September 30, 2005     E-mail this page to a friend!

While not Hurricane Katrina or Rita, there was enough rain in Billings on Saturday, September 24, to shut down the last two days of the live race meet at Yellowstone Downs. Eight races were carded Friday, September 23, but races were canceled Saturday due to a cold downpour. Sunday’s weather was better, but there was a consensus among track management, jockeys and trainers that the track surface wasn’t dry enough to be safe.

Sunday’s race card was deemed “Championship Day” with $113,125 offered in purses and the tracks stakes race finals on the line. It was to have been the biggest race day of the season at MetraPark in Billings. The richest Quarter Horse race of the state, the $35,430 Yellowstone Downs Quarter Horse Futurity, was included on that card.

“We’re not in the business to force riders to ride and trainers to run,” said Racing Director Ben Carlson. “For the most part, everybody understood it. You know what’s safe, and I didn’t want any accidents hanging over my head the rest of my life.
It was a consensus.”

With a disappointing season already in progress in terms of pari-mutuel handle, the shutdown will be a severe blow to the overall picture of this season’s live race meet. While last year saw an average daily live handle of approximately $70,000, up to closing weekend the Billings meet was averaging just around $57,000 this season.

“We don’t know where we’re at for sure yet,” Carlson explained about finalizing figures for this season. “It’s going to take a while. It’s not financially successful to have to shut down your biggest day of racing.”