Let the Races Begin
by Kati O'Hare
Jun 06, 2012 | 1235 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
MONTROSE - This year, the public will have one more day to enjoy a pastime that dates back to the area's Ute inhabitants.

The Black Canyon Horse Racing Association is hosting two, two-day race meets at the Montrose County Fairgrounds, June 16-17 and Sept. 8-9, as it did last year.

New this year is a one-day event on July 21 that will help kick off the Montrose County Fair and Rodeo, which runs from July 20 to July 29.

"I know we put in a lot of hours to get this thing to where it is today," association member John Hawks said. "But it's all worth it now that [the Montrose County Commissioners] are encouraging us not only to have one meet a year, but two. For them to invite us to the fair was a real highlight to all our hard work to get this race track saved."

Association member Valerie Hudson called it a milestone for the association, which only a few years ago struggled to gain county commissioners' support in its efforts to reintroduce horse racing to the community.

The association regrouped in late 2008 after becoming inactive when horse racing creased at the fairground in 2002.

"It was real time consuming and frustrating," Hawk said.

The track was neglected and the county wasn't sold that horse racing would be a community-supported activity. At that point, the county's facility master plan recommended eliminating the old track to make room for a RV park, open space, pens and a second arena.

The association spent the next two years repairing the track with volunteers, gaining sponsorships and support.

"It seemed like we were on trial. If we didn't make it good, it would be gone," Hawks said. "But we even surpassed my expectations. I'm sure that we got the attention of the county commissioners."

The association held its first successful race in 2010, and then two race meets in 2011.

Montrose County Commissioner David White said he is glad to see someone using the track again.

For the association, a full bandstand has demonstrated that horse racing is still a viable, community event.

"It was really cool to see the age range at the events," Hudson said, "You've got young jockeys riding for their families, the bandstands are 90 percent full, and people are coming and going all day."

Unlike the two-day race meets, the July 21 County Fair event, which starts at noon, will be more of a showcase of horse racing, Hudson said.

There will be four different races – two shorter races for quarter horses and two longer races for thoroughbreds. Purses are estimated at $2,400, with payouts through third-place finishers.

"I'm pleased to have it a special race day where we attract a very good field of horses," Hawks said. "It should be fun during fair time and I think it will fit in really well with the rodeo and the fair."

Racers interested in participating need to contact the association prior to the race because of scheduling constraints. Call Aaron Hampton at (970) 216-8505 or Danny Morales at (970) 234-2253 with questions or to register.

The June 16-17 meet, as well as September's event, is part of the bush tracks circuit and will have seven to eight races each day with competitors coming from Colorado, Wyoming, Arizona, Utah and New Mexico.

There will a $2 entry fee for all the races and programs can be purchased for $3. The programs will include that day's race lineup and information.

Hawk said the association also is seeking board members. Interested people can contact him at (970) 596-4292.

kohare@watchnewspapers.com

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