Fonner Park extends racing to second season after success

April 22, 2020

Dakota Wood (right) on the Wanderintheforest leads the pack around the first turn of the fourth race on March 23

Photo Credit: Barrett Stinson, Grand Island Independent

Fonner Park racing announced today approval of the Nebraska State Racing Commission for an additional twelve days of racing in May to conduct a Second Season of racing that would commence on Monday, May 4 and extend until May 31, 2020. The request includes permission to continue racing Monday – Wednesday at 4 p.m. CT on a no-spectator basis.

After a recommendation to cease racing and a decision to conduct no-spectator racing, on Monday, March 23, Fonner Park shifted from weekend racing to a Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday format to create separation from the more popular racetracks.

“While no spectator racing continues to be conducted at Fonner Park under COVID-19 precaution and prevention guidelines, the continuation of racing is still very much a day-to-day prospect,” said Fonner Park CEO Chris Kotulak. 

“The ability to continue racing with minimal national and global wagering opportunities has cast a brilliant light on Fonner Park. There has been a chunk of mutuel handle on the Fonner Park races, but money bet out-of-state only represents a chink of revenue compared to money bet on-track.”

Since March 23, the all-sources mutuel handle on Fonner Park has risen to a daily average of $2,836,904, excluding the $7.2 million day on April 7 when there was a $4.1 million final pool on a mandatory payout day of the popular Dinsdale Late Pick 5 Jackpot wager. A second mandatory payout occurred on April 21 resulting in a total pool of $2,354,674 and a daily all-sources handle of $6,505,470. A third mandatory payout has been scheduled for April 29th, the day of the $50,000 Bosselman/Gus Fonner Stakes.

“Fonner Park operates on a wickedly narrow profit margin. What might seem like a successful spell of handle one week might only equate to survival or even a deficit another week. We cannot be swooned by sexy handles this year when we have to consider purse money for 2021 and the hundreds of thousands of dollars of expenses and repairs we face annually. Another important financial factor is that once other tracks return with their racing, the mutuel handle on Fonner Park will drop,” said Kotulak.

“My goal is not to simply make hay this year. I have a responsibility to Fonner Park, the horsemen and the city of Grand Island, Nebraska to remain viable for many years to come.”

Currently there are four flat Thoroughbred racetracks with schedules. Gulfstream Park (scheduled to run through Sep. 27), Oaklawn Park (closing May 2), Tampa Bay Downs (scheduled through May 3, but with an application pending to extend the meet), and Will Rogers Downs (currently racing through May 20).

Edited Press Release

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