Monday, August 13, 2012

Illinois State Fair: Harness racing gets financial boost

Entries and purses for harness racing eliminations have increased significantly at the Illinois State Fair.
Twenty-four races will be contested today and Saturday, compared to 16 during the first two days of eliminations in 2011. Purses for elimination races are $8,000. That’s up from $4,000 in 2010 and 2011.

“We had 80 more horses nominated this year than last year,” said Charlyn Fargo Ware, bureau chief of county fairs and horse racing for the Department of Agriculture.
There are five days of harness racing on the one-mile track at the Grandstand. Post time is noon.
Eliminations for 2-year-old Illinois-bred horses are today. Eliminations for 3-year-olds are Saturday. Each card will feature 12 races.
The increase in entries is possibly a trickle-down effect of the release last August of impact fee money from the highest-grossing riverboat casinos in Illinois. The money from a 3 percent surcharge on income from some of the state’s casinos had been tied up in court. A reported $142 million was distributed to horsemen and track officials, with $85 million released to purse accounts. The other millions went to tracks for improvements and operating expenses.
No races are scheduled for Sunday and Monday at the fairgrounds. Racing resumes Tuesday and runs through Thursday.
The grand circuit will compete Tuesday. The $40,000 state fair championship races are Wednesday and Thursday.
The leading trainer at the 2011 state fair was Ervin Miller with nine victories. Williamsville High School graduate Marcus Miller, Ervin’s son, was the leading state fair driver last year with 11 wins.
So many people love to race at the Illinois State Fair,” Fargo Ware said. “There is a tradition here. When you race at the Illinois State Fair, it still really means something. Many aren’t going to Chicago, so this is a great option for a lot of guys to race here.”

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