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Horse track to host harness racing

BISMARCK -- There will be three days of harness races at the North Dakota Horse Park this month. Tentative plans became final Wednesday when the state Racing Commission approved harness racing in Fargo for Sept. 19-21, sponsored by the Fair Circu...

BISMARCK -- There will be three days of harness races at the North Dakota Horse Park this month.

Tentative plans became final Wednesday when the state Racing Commission approved harness racing in Fargo for Sept. 19-21, sponsored by the Fair Circuit Horse Racing Association.

The approval comes with a check from the commission's promotion fund for $58,495 to cover expenses, plus $42,000 from the commission's purse fund and $7,500 from the breeder's fund.

Track manager Les Schmidt told commissioners that there is a potential for as many as 100 horses from Manitoba and 35 to 40 from Minnesota for the harness races, based on his visits with horsemen on those areas.

"That sounds good, really good," said Commission Chairman Howard Wrigley of Fargo.

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Plans are also being made for a seven-furlong "North Dakota First Lady's Cup" race on Sept. 14, the last day of the regular horse racing season at the track.

It would be all fillies and mares racing.

The idea comes from Racing Director Paul Bowlinger. He said several factors inspired it. He said the Fargo track distinguished itself right away when five of the seven winning jockeys the first day of this season were women, which garnered "a tremendous amount of publicity."

He's also noticed that the Fargo crowds are more evenly split amongst women and men; most race tracks have about 80 percent men in attendance, he said.

"I want to promote that kind of crowd coming out," he said. "It'd be fun to promote the female aspect. In North Dakota we need to be innovative."

A seven-furlong race, which would both begin and end in front of the stands, would be a crowd pleaser, he said, and is longer than any other race on the schedule. It would also encourage more thoroughbreds to come to Fargo, which are under-represented so far in the season, he said.

He said he got the approval for the name from First Lady Mikey Hoeven during Governor's Day last weekend.

"We've been dealt this novelty aspect," he said. "This shows the Racing Commission is paying attention."

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Readers can reach Forum reporter Janell Cole at (701) 224-0830

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