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Horsemen’s Park set to hold races in May, June again next year

With the hope of milder weather, Horsemen’s Park will once again hold its live meet next year in May and June.

The Nebraska Racing Commission approved the state’s 2019 live race dates at a meeting Monday in Lincoln. There will be 58 days of live thoroughbred racing at five racetracks, including nine days at the Omaha facility.

For the second straight year, Horsemen’s Park will conduct its live meet around the Triple Crown races. Horsemen’s Park will race six days in May and three in June, finishing on the day of the Belmont Stakes.

“We feel that’s our sweet spot,’’ Horsemen’s Park General Manager Mike Newlin said. “We felt everything was great about our racing last year, except for the weather.’’

Newlin said only one of last year’s nine racing days could have been considered pleasant. The temperature barely reached 60 the first three days and then record heat followed, with temperatures soaring past 100 degrees.

“We really feel those dates make the most sense for us,’’ Newlin said. “We were cursed with terrible weather but hopefully next year it will be a lot nicer.’’

The state racing circuit will begin with Grand Island’s Fonner Park, which will race 31 days from Feb. 22 to May 4. Horsemen’s Park will hold its first live day of racing May 11 — the Saturday between the Kentucky Derby and Preakness — and finish on June 8.

Columbus will race 14 days from Aug. 2 to Sept. 2, and Lincoln Race Course will run three days in September. Construction of a seven-furlong racetrack is under way at the Lincoln facility.

South Sioux City will hold one live race day to complete the thoroughbred circuit. Hastings also will run one day of quarter horse racing to bring the total number of race days to 59.

The proposed race dates were approved unanimously by the five-member commission.

“That part of the meeting went quickly,’’ chairman Dennis Lee said. “Each track pretty much will race the same dates as this year.’’

In other commission business, Fonner Park requested the installation of historical racing machines. After a presentation by AmTote — Fonner’s pari-mutuel wagering company — the machines were approved unanimously.

“They meet the statutory definition of pari-mutuel wagering,’’ Lee said. “The machines are in use at other tracks around the country.’’

They are produced by PariMax, an AmTote innovation. The company’s website says the machines have generated more than $4 billion in mutuel handle for the racing industry.

Lee said he didn’t know how many machines Fonner planned to implement or when they might be operational.

A Kentucky circuit court judge ruled last week that the machines were legal in that state and did not violate gambling laws.

“It’s creating a new wager within the scope of pari-mutuel wagering,’’ Lee said.

The 2019 live race dates:

Fonner Park, Grand Island: 31 days, Feb. 22-May 4. Horsemen’s Park, Omaha: 9 days (May 11, 17, 18, 25, 26, 31; June 1, 7, 8). Columbus: 14 days, Aug. 2-Sept. 2. Lincoln Race Course: 3 days (in September, to be determined). South Sioux City: 1 day (to be determined). Hastings: 1 day (quarter horse racing, to be determined).

Mike covers high school sports, primarily volleyball in the fall, girls basketball in the winter and baseball in the spring and summer. He also reports on horse racing for The World-Herald. Follow him on Twitter @MPattersonOWH. Phone: 402-444-1350.

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