South Dakota didn’t race horses
Fairs and rodeos are on the schedules for many rural South Dakotans this summer, but many of them missed one of their favorite entertainment venues. Neither the Aberdeen nor the Fort Pierre horse race track was able to hold races this spring.
Even as South Dakota-born trainer Bill Mott placed first and third in the Kentucky Derby this year, the tracks in his home state that helped make him a world class trainer, didn’t have the funds to host their annual races.
Republican Senator Jeff Monroe, from Pierre, and Representative Drew Dennert, from Aberdeen, asked the legislature for $600,000 in Senate Bill 128, to help keep the tracks open. The request was amended to $360,000, then $120,000 this spring.
“The Governor Appropriation Committee decided that horse racing was on the decline, and there was no need to support it,” said Shane Kramme, who has been a part of or in more than 4,000 horse races in South Dakota. “The funding had slipped down to a very low number, which wouldn’t have allowed both tracks to race.”
The cost per season per location comes in at about $300,000, said Aberdeen’s Northeast Area Horse Racing president Bubby Haar.
On April 9, Northeast Area Horse Racing stated, “After 60 years of horse racing in Aberdeen, SD. Northeast Area Horse Racing (NAHR) will not be conducting a live race meet in 2019. The non-profit organization that has operated and managed the live horse racing meet for the past 23 years has stated that they are unable to meet the recent changes of a bond requirement put in place by the South Dakota Gaming Commission.”
Governor Kristi Noem has been painted no friend to horse racing and “thinks of racing as part of the gambling world more than the agricultural one,” states Paulick Report. The most recent governor to be a blatant supporter of horse racing in the Rushmore state was George Mickelson.
Kramme is concerned about how breeders of South Dakota racing horses will respond to the lack of racing available in this state. “Without incentive, they will move on and go elsewhere. It’s been slowly happening over many years, but this year was particularly difficult,” he said.
Minnesota’s Canterbury Park is hosting a South Dakota and North-Dakota-bred futurity without funding from those states, allowing colts a chance to participate in racing this year since they couldn’t do so at the bullring track at the Stanley County Fairgrounds in Fort Pierre or the Brown County Horse Race Track in Aberdeen.
Besides Bill Mott, who placed first in the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby this year with Country House and third with Tacitus and was the trainer of the great racehorse Cigar, others have gotten their start in South Dakota. Four time Derby winner and Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas, and Quarter Horse jockey Keith Asmussen, and his sons Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen who trained winners of the Breeders’ Cup, Preakness Stakes, Belmont Stakes, and Eclipse Award winner Cash Asmussen, got their starts at those tracks years ago, giving them a place from which to launch. Aspiring horse-racing youth will no longer have that opportunity unless the non-profit tracks can find funding elsewhere. F