Metro-East News

Fairmount Park sticks with shorter season as it sets racing plans for 2019

The Illinois Racing Board has approved 41 racing days for Fairmount Park in 2019 from April 16 through Sept. 14.
The Illinois Racing Board has approved 41 racing days for Fairmount Park in 2019 from April 16 through Sept. 14. BND file photo

The Illinois Racing Board has approved the racing days for 2019, and again, Fairmount Park is looking at a shorter season than in the past.

The Collinsville park is scheduled to hold 41 race days on Tuesdays and Saturdays from April 16 through Sept. 14, according to the racing board’s website.

Under the plan approved by the racing board, however, the park won’t have races on April 20 and 27 and Aug. 31. Instead of running on Tuesday Sept. 3, the park plans to run on Labor Day, Sept. 2.

Fairmount Park President Brian Zander said no matter the finances, Fairmount plans to run races on all days scheduled in 2019.

The 2019 season will begin two weeks earlier than it did in 2018, when races began on May 1, allowing horses to start training at the track earlier in the calendar year.

As it did for the 2018 season, Fairmount is scheduled to races on 41 days. However, the 2018 season was cut short because the legislature did not pass a gambling expansion that would allow Fairmount to have an additional revenue source to help pay for race purses.

Zander said even though the park was able to save several hundreds of thousands of dollars in purse money, cutting five days created lots of havoc at the park.

“It created some hardship for the horsemen because they weren’t able to make plans on time,” Zander said.

Zander added attendees who had planned parties also were not able to hold their events.

This year, instead of ending on Sept. 22, Fairmount called it a season on Labor Day. The park initially had said it could end racing for the season on July 3, but opted for an additional two months.

There is a potential new revenue source that could be coming. The Illinois Racing Board is moving forward on allowing people to wager on historic horse races, however those rules are still being developed, said racing board Executive Director Domenic DiCera.

Fairmount Park president, Brian Zander, talks about the need for anew revenue stream.

Joseph Bustos: 618-239-2451, @JoeBReporter