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Fargo expected to have less horse racing next summer

Our Gracie, second from the right, pulls ahead in the first race of the day to win in the 300-yard race Saturday, July 23, 2016, at the North Dakota Horse Park in Fargo. Dave Wallis / The Forum

FARGO — The North Dakota Horse Park plans to have one less day of racing in 2018 than it did in 2017.

The Fargo track will ask for seven race days in 2018 at the state Racing Commission meeting Tuesday, Nov. 14, in Bismarck. Fargo has requested to run races July 14 and 15, July 20 and 21, and July 26, 27 and 28.

In 2017, the North Dakota Horse Park had eight days of racing. Races were held on Saturday and Sunday over three weekends, with two weekends of Friday night racing. The Fargo track had not had Friday night racing since 2014.

However, officials have said the additional Friday nights did not draw as many spectators as hoped and race purses were down to account for the extra races.

North Dakota Horse Park General Manager Mike Schmitz said he is requesting seven days of racing over three weekends to give the track the option of hosting one Friday night of racing.

"We want the flexibility of doing something different on the last weekend," he said. "I think the last weekend could likely be a Friday, Saturday, Sunday race weekend, but logistically we will need to work around events that are also going on in town, such as the Fargo AirSho. We may only run six days in the end."

Schmitz said daily attendance averaged nearly 2,000, down from 2016, which averaged 2,565. He attributed that to the extended weekend race dates and several other factors, including road construction and the high heat forecasts on several race dates.

"Any time you have more event days the average tends to go down," Schmitz said. "We also had major construction on 19th Avenue and a lot of roads all around us. It was down a little bit but not enough to set off red flags."

The state Racing Commission sets race dates, and it funds purses and promotions for the North Dakota Horse Park and Chippewa Downs in Belcourt, N.D. Funding comes from online betting companies that pay taxes to be licensed in the state.

Chippewa Downs has requested eight days of racing, the same as in 2017.

Wendy Reuer

Wendy reports for The Forum and West Fargo Pioneer, where she is also assistant editor. A University of Minnesota Morris graduate from North Dakota, Wendy started her career in television news and entertainment in Minnesota and at CBS in Television City, Calif. before working at newspapers in Minnesota and North Dakota. 

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