BISMARCK — Live horse racing at the Fargo track will open on a Thursday night this year.

During a special meeting of the North Dakota Racing Commission, on Thursday, April 1, commissioners approved allowing the North Dakota Horse Park to begin its meet two days earlier than initially planned, with racing on Thursday, July 8, and Friday, July 9. The meet will then run four weeks, with racing on Saturday July 17; Sunday, July, 18; Friday, July 23; Saturday, July 24; Saturday, July 31, and Sunday, Aug. 1.

Executive Director of the North Dakota Racing Commission Jack Schulz said the Fargo track was requesting to start earlier so that horse racing would not have to compete with many planned weekend events in the metro area. Representatives from the Fargo track, or Horse Race North Dakota, a nonprofit that manages the track, were not present on the call with the racing commission.

"We support it from here, 100%," Schulz said Thursday. "It's just a matter of changing the dates; it is the same meet."

The North Dakota Horse Racing Commission is comprised of five members appointed by the governor and charged with regulating horse racing and off-track betting sites licensed with the state of North Dakota.

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The commission is currently short two members after Fargo Commissioner Dave Piepkorn's term expired earlier this year and Linda Beta recently resigned.

Commissioners Shane Martin of Belcourt, Timothy Kreidt of Dickinson, N.D., and Chairman John Hanson of Bowman, N.D. remain.

The North Dakota Racing Commission initially approved eight days of live racing or four weekends of racing at the North Dakota Horse Park in Fargo between July 10 and Aug. 9 at its December meeting.

Chippewa Downs in Belcourt, N.D., is also allowed eight race days between May 28 and June 28.

On March 18, the Racing Commission granted funding to the two tracks. The two tracks received $220,000 from the promotional fund and $176,000 for race purses.

The Racing Commission generally awards race dates in late December and grants funding requests from two pots of money each spring. One amount is granted for purse money and the other is for track operations or promotions.

The purse funding allows for an average race to be worth about $2,750, and a minimum of $2,500. Purse money is the amount won by the horses and horsemen in races.