The announcement was made official at the Tour and Rec. Board meeting last week that the horse races will be held this year, scheduled Aug. 17-19.
At a previous AG13 board meeting in December, it was unclear what was going to happen with the horse races. And, even though the White Pine County Fair would have still taken place, in addition to the 4-H Livestock show and sale, the horse races brings a lot to the weekend event.
County Commissioner Steve Stork made mention in a commission meeting earlier in December that the horse races were a no go, and that comment was later retracted. Several Horse Race Committee members stood before the board meeting that night and discussed the need for help, and began working together to find a solution.
Earlier this month, the AG13 board met again, and this time Horse Race Committee members and board members began working through prior issues. AG13 board Chairman Bill Panagopoulos commented on the announcement, “Despite earlier reports, to the contrary we are in fact planning on having horse races as part of the 2019 Whit Pine County Fair.
“While we have had changes to the faces that you will see putting the fair and more specifically the horse races together, AG13 board and the White Pine horse race committee are moving forward with the 2019 races.”
Panagopoulos explained how each year the task of of putting the races together was reportedly becoming very trying, due to competition for quality horses with other races and other tracks.
“Owners want to take their horses to places that will give them the highest payouts if they win,” he said. “Tracks that we are in competition with for these horses are state funded and thus able to produce high purses. We continue to work hard to be a destination for quality horse racing as part of the County Fair.”
Horse Race Committee members Kevin Robison, Marietta Henry and Wayne Cameron were contacted for comment as well. The consensus? Excitement was expressed quite a bit, knowing that the horse races would continue on, in addition to gratitude for the AG13 Board’s decision to help.
Robison said, “Moving forward means a lot of work has yet to be done. All parties involved seem to understand the critical need of it, and it will take everyone being involved, working to have a successful weekend in August.”
Cameron said, “I’m really glad to have some interested individuals willing to step up and help in keeping the horse races going. The races have been a strong and a proud part of this community for almost 80 years.”
Challenges of needing additional volunteers and a chairman seemed to be something each committee member mentioned during discussions with each one of them.
There are still some concerns about the date of the horse races coinciding with the event in Evanston, Wyoming, but logistics of it are being worked out.
Henry explained in the Tour and Rec. Board meeting that paperwork for the Horse Race Committee to become a 501(c)3 is being finalized.
“We are going to work very hard to make the races happen,” Henry said. “We don’t have a chairman at the moment. but we are working to make that happen. AG13 has committed to help us. I gave them a detailed list, of things that need to be done at the track, and all the things we need to have happen prior to race weekend.”
Henry also mentioned the horse race committee would be attending the next White Pine County Commission meeting to ask for assistance with funding for the purses and with assistance in negotiating insurance for the jockeys’.
“To be a bonafide track, you have to provide workers comp for jockeys and it has increased tremendously. I would like to see the county sponsor a race as well,” Henry said.
Steve Stork, chairman of the Tour and Rec board, noted that the commission will have to look into that. “I know there is a restriction, any monies donated by a county cannot be used towards purses or race expenses. But that doesn’t mean we can’t donate money toward other expenses.”
Robison said, “I have no doubt that Ely will benefit from the continued tradition of the fair, horse races, and the 4-H livestock sale that all take place over the 3-day weekend.”
This years event will mark the 84th year. An event that brings in thousands of people from out-of-town, as well as local participation.
“Our community derives financial benefits from the horse races in so many aspects, looking forward to seeing everyone at the races.” Henry said.