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Yellowstone Downs meet right on track


June 28, 2006     E-mail this page to a friend!

Yellowstone Downs in Billings is right on track with stakes entries for the 10-day meet opening August 18 and running through September 24, according to Racing Director Ben Carlson.

The opening weekend of racing will be held during the Montana Fair at MetraPark with racing on Friday and Saturday. Racing continues over the Labor Day holiday, on Sunday, September 3 and Labor Day Monday, September 4, and on Saturdays and Sundays thereafter to the close of the meet.

After first payments were due for stakes nominations, the track was within three horses of the same number of entries as last year. Forty-one were nominated to the Quarter Horse Futurity, 21 were nominated to the Paint Futurity, and eight were nominated to the Thoroughbred Futurity.

In the derbies, 23 were nominated to the Quarter Horse race, eight were nominated to the Paint Derby, and seven were thus far nominated to the Thoroughbred Derby.

An annual concern for horsemen attending the meet revolves around the use of the track facilities by motor sporting events right before live racing begins. Track management typically has to ensure the track is brought back to good racing condition. This year, the only motor sporting event at the MetraPark oval has already taken place, allowing plenty of time to recondition the track surface for horses.

“They only used about 500 feet of the front stretch,” said Carlson about the event. “We’ve taken all the cushion off the front stretch all the way to the outside. Now the event is all over and done with. The debris is picked up off the track and we’re going to go ahead and work on the base and bring the cushion back on and add another 200 ton of sand, most of it on the front stretch.”

The track should be ready for training by the end of the first week of July.

“Track-wise, we’ll be in excellent shape,” Carlson said. He added that crews are working on improving the inside rail and repairing stalls.

“In addition, MetraPark is making improvements to both the back and the frontside,” Carlson reported. “We are committed to running in 2006, and we have 100 percent support from the county commissioners, the MetraPark board, and the new CEO at MetraPark, Bill Dutcher.

“Dutcher has been great to work with. He knows and understands horseracing and understands our needs,” Carlson added.

Carlson also affirmed that Yellowstone Downs is committed to running in 2007. Community support is strong, and the Midland Horse Racing Association is holding the annual “Horsin’ Around at Yellowstone Downs” fundraiser on August 26. That weekend falls between the first and second weekends of live horse racing.

Because there is no jock mount incentive program on the state level this year (tracks are absorbing those funds to help cover the cost of the increased jockey insurance premiums that hit tracks in January), Midland Horse Racing is adding $10 to the minimum jock mount schedule at Yellowstone Downs. All the finish positions that don’t pay a percentage to jockeys will be increased by the $10.

“They are also trying to help with sawdust costs during the race meet,” Carlson said. He noted that due to increasing costs of sawdust, he wanted to raise the fees charged to horsemen for the product, but Midland has stepped up to the plate with funding to help keep costs from rising.

“And I’m thinking seriously about adding a discount scenario,” in regards to sawdust fees at the track, Carlson said. He is considering giving a discount based on the number of head a stable brings in. For instance, a five-horse stable would receive a 5 percent discount, a 12-horse stable would receive a 12 percent discount, and so on.

For more information on live racing at Yellowstone Downs, contact the race office at 406-869=5251; or 406-698-8238; or visit the website at www.yellowstonedowns.com.