GREAT FALLS — The summer of 2020 marked the first year since the late 1800s that Montana did not hold an organized horse racing event due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But plans are moving forward for a return to the track.
Cascade County commissioners approved an agreement with the Great Falls Turf Club on Tuesday that will see the races return to the ExpoPark for five days in the summer of 2021.
The contract calls for the county to contribute $65,000 toward the event, which drew more than 10,000 fans in 2019.
Commissioners and organizers are pleased to be moving forward with the annual tradition.
“We may have a vaccine, and we may be changing and doing business a little bit more normally next summer,” said commissioner Jane Weber. “So thank the Turf Club and the ExpoPark for looking ahead and planning ahead because we need to be doing that in a proactive way.”
Turf Club president Sparky Kottke and Montana Board of Horse Racing Chairman John Hayes also spoke at Tuesday’s meeting.
“I’m sitting here proud of what we’re doing together as a community,” Hayes said. “I watch around the state, and that’s not exactly what’s going on in other areas.”
The dates for the races are July 24-25, July 30-31 and Aug. 1. The 2019 event drew more than $450,000 in bets across all five days.