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Idaho horse racing persevering ahead of Opening Day

Opening day of the circuit is at Pocatello Downs on May 8
Published: May. 5, 2021 at 5:19 PM MDT
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TWIN FALLS, Idaho (KMVT/KSVT) — Horse racing in Idaho is set to begin on Saturday, May 8. at Pocatello Downs.

“Horse racing is absolutely a cultural icon of Idaho,” said trainer and Pocatello Downs board member Mark Hanson. “Maybe you’ve never been to a horse race, but you know someone who’s been to them, you know someone who owns a horse or somebody’s brother was a jockey when they were younger. It is woven into the fabric, especially here in southeast Idaho.”

In addition to Pocatello, races will be conducted in Rupert, Gooding, Malad, Burley and Blackfoot. There is a total of 26 race days that will be conducted in Idaho.

“Idaho is a unique opportunity,” Hanson said. “In the day of COVID, it’s an outdoor environment. It’s a nice transition back to normalcy.”

Throughout much of the spring, an Idaho State Racing Commission deficit put the future of the industry in doubt. Financially, it has not always been smooth sailing for the industry in the Gem State, but with Opening Day in sight, the toughness of the industry and commitment of the horsemen has been on full display.

“It just shows how horsemen of Idaho persevere. There are very few ‘make a living’ trainers left in Idaho. They’re here because they want to be. The purses or the money they might make is an afterthought. They’re doing it because they love the sport,” Hanson said. “To be days away from Opening Day, it’s almost a surreal feeling as to how we’ve made it to this point.”

For Hanson, his mission to ensure Idaho racing thrives is a personal one, as his family has long been involved in the industry.

“The sport to me is life,” Hanson said. “I’ve been to different tracks in different states, but this is home.”

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