Fonner Park may get more racing dates this spring

Fonner park may pick up more racing dates for this season.
Fonner park may pick up more racing dates for this season.(KASEY MINTZ, KSNB)
Published: Mar. 7, 2023 at 4:33 PM CST
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GRAND ISLAND, Neb. (KSNB) - Due to delays in building a Lincoln race track, Fonner Park may get more racing dates this May.

The Nebraska Racing and Gaming Commission will consider a request to add May 12, 13, 14, 19 and 20 to this year’s season at Fonner. If approved, the horsemen will continue to stable their horses at Fonner Park during that period.

President Garald Wollesen of the Nebraska Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association said those May dates were originally scheduled for the new Legacy Downs track in Lincoln, located near the Warhorse Casino.

Wollesen said delays in getting construction materials for the new $2.5 million track will prevent them from holding the races in Lincoln in May. Wollesen said the HBPA will fund the purses for the additional racing dates at Fonner Park.

Wollesen praised Fonner Park, calling it a “great partner,” for picking up the extra dates.

In a statement, Fonner Park CEO Chris Kotulak said, ““While it is not in our business plan to run more than our typical 31 days, we saw the need to assist Nebraska horsemen and horseplayers. But we could not host these additional days without funding from the Nebraska HBPA, which is tasked to provide purse money and subsidies for their Thoroughbred horsemen, and the Nebraska Thoroughbred Breeders Association, which promotes Thoroughbred breeding in Nebraska.”

In order for Nebraska race tracks to feature simulcast races from other tracks around the country, there have to be at least 52 days of live horse racing in the state during the year. Fonner Park already added six days of racing at this beginning of this season. With the addition of the five new dates in May, Fonner will have had a total of 42 days of racing this year. The remaining days would be held at other tracks in Nebraska.

The formal request to add the May dates to Fonner’s schedule is on the agenda for the March 17 meeting of the NRGC, to be held in Grand Island. Wollesen said he expects the commission to approve the request.