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Forum editorial: Horse park putting on great show

As the North Dakota Horse Park opens the last weekend of horse racing of a three-weekend run, it appears the 2014 season has been successful. Crowds have been good. The horse-owning community has stepped up with a solid cadre of entries. Purses have been relatively generous. The facility itself is attractive, well-maintained and family-friendly.

All those ingredients have combined to give new life to the north Fargo track, which had fallen on tough times a few years ago. A rejuvenation effort got off to a tentative start, but this summer is another step toward ensuring the park has a brighter future. Credit goes to several groups and individuals, but the focused dedication of general manager Mike Schmitz is reason No. 1 for the horse park’s newfound success.

The Hazen, N.D., native took on the task in 2011, a year after the park, mired in debt, had closed. In just a couple of seasons, Schmidt and horse racing enthusiasts had brightened a bleak picture. The track again began attracting horse people, bettors and families. By the 2013 season, the track was setting attendance records and wager records.

The 2014 season got off to a good start, even setting an all-time attendance mark last weekend when the Budweiser Clydesdales proved to be a huge draw. Schmidt said in a recent interview that such special events, including the possibility of using the venue for concerts, must be part of the horse park’s overall programming in order to stay in the black.

Horse racing can do well in the Fargo area. Good management of the horse park is vital, and it looks like Schmidt and his support staff can do it. High-quality horses and riders, and competitive purses, must be part of the formula for the park to build a good reputation in the horse racing community. Promotion of the racing season helps potential regular fans put horse racing on their summer to-do list. And a longer season is essential to build fan support.

This weekend’s weather looks good – near-perfect conditions for an outing at the horse park. Get out there and take in one of the Red River Valley’s delightful attractions.

Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.

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