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Missoula gears up for Western Montana Fair and Races


June 30, 2006     E-mail this page to a friend!

Preparations are underway for the 2006 race season at the Garden City’s Western Montana Fair & Race Meet in Missoula August 8-13, with a post time of 1:00 p.m. every race day.

Staff at the Western Montana Fair and Race Meet and the Western Montana Turf Club have been busy soliciting added money for several overnight stakes races and meeting specific goals to enhance this year’s race meet. The meet is always an exciting time for Missoula - Missoulians love horse racing!

The six-day race meet offers a wide variety of overnight stakes races. The advantage to the overnight stakes is running in stakes races without having to make payments months in advance, said Bill Nooney, Director of Horse Racing. No trials in most cases, no fuss, no muss. Nominations and payments will open August 6.

The newest addition to the overnight stakes program is the WMF MBNA Supplemental Challenge Maturity Stakes with an estimated purse of $12,000. Challenge enrolled horses are preferred. The Challenge Supplemental Stakes is a great way to reach Challenge-enrolled horses and enhance more racing opportunities.

Another annual centerpiece favorite breaking from the gate will be the Rose Blossom Handicap for Fillies and Mares running at 1 mile + 1/16. The purse for this race will be increased this year, and the purse structure is yet to be announced.

Other established races that headline the race meet include three Paint Horse Stakes running 300 yards and the Theibert Memorial Marathon for Thoroughbreds going a mile + 5/8. The Dude Palmer Handicap is always a fun dash at 1/2 mile + 1/16 for mixed breeds.

Shorty Martin will be returning as Racing Secretary. Condition books will be mailed out in the next few weeks and will also be available on the web: www.westernmontanafair.com. Extra races will be written to suit horses on the grounds.

The race meet will be kicked off by the annual Horsemen’s Appreciation Banquet hosted by the Western Montana Turf Club and the Western Montana Fair August 7. Tom Alsaker will be back with his barbeque specialties again this year. The dinner will include live entertainment.
This evening event will include honoring the Western Montana Turf Club’s DAS (Dedication and Service) recipient. This recipient award is given in appreciation to a person that has dedicated years of service and contributions to the race meet in Missoula. Last year’s recipient was horseman’s bookkeeper Mary Wallace, honoring her 24 years of service. A plaque and traveling trophy will be awarded to the 2006 recipient.

Following the dinner will be the second annual Western Montana Turf Club Benefit Auction. There will be various horse racing collectables and items up for bid again this year. One of the many collectable items is an autographed Saratoga Cap with jockey greats: Edgar Prado, Jerry Bailey, John Velazquez, Shane Sellers, Cornelio Velasquez, Shaun Bridgmohan and Jorge “Chop Chop” Chavez. Proceeds from this auction help provide funds for the Jockey incentive programs, and other horse racing needs in Missoula.

The Western Montana Turf Club unanimously voted to again offer a Jockey Incentive program to the Missoula Race Meet. Just as last year, funds will be added to every jock mount/start. Incentive funds will be distributed the final day of the race meet. It was a successful program last year, according to Toni Hinton, Coordinator of Horse Racing, and is expected to be another success this year.

Other Western Montana Turf Club projects include the 5th Annual Mullan Station/Western Montana Turf Club Handicapping Challenge. Daily entries and rules will be in the race program, finalists will compete on Sunday, August 13, and the winner takes $1500 CASH on the final day of the race meet.

This year Roger Fraley will be returning with handicapping team members Elaine Fraley and Jim Johnson. The three Western Montana Turf Club members will conduct a daily wagering seminar and selection picks with a media guest in the beer garden one hour and 15 minutes prior to post time every day.

Ron Ulrich of the Lucky Strike Casino will award cash to the leading Jockey and Leading Trainer. Other race meet awards include Outstanding Horseman (woman), Outstanding Pony Person, Outstanding groom, and Outstanding Shed Row.

In addition to wagering on live horse racing August 8, Author Richard Maturi will hold a book signing of his new book, Triple Crown Winner: The Earl Sande Saga.

We are very fortunate that Mr. Maturi can attend our race meet,” Hinton said. “He has recently held book signings at the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico in Baltimore, and other major tracks in the U.S. This will be a chance to get a signed copy before it becomes a movie!”
On August 13 there will be a Sunday faith service held by SHAC (a nondenominational faith held in the grandstand area at 9:30 a.m.) for those horsemen wishing to attend.

Additional entertainment will be true to form with “John Michael Montgomery”. Tickets can be ordered at (406) 888-montana.

The track will be open for training July 26. Stall applications are available now on the web site: www.westernmontanafair.com. The race office will be open August 5 through August 13.
“We are looking forward to the horsemen joining us during our race meet,” Hinton said. “The horsemen are very important to our fair, and we have been very diligent and dedicated to assure that this meet is the most it can be for them.”