The hay is in the barn, but there are no horses to feed. Les Bois Park will not conducted horse racing this year, and maybe never again. The legislature kept the “last hope” bill in committee, stopping any chance of historical racing machines back into Les Bois, Sandy Downs in Idaho Falls, and the simulcast facility in Coeur D’Alene.
The Boise closure may signal the end of horse racing in the State of Idaho. There are only 22 days of racing on the schedule, and Emmett has already cancelled their Spring race meet. The Les Bois Park money was instrumental in funding the purse structure of the smaller tracks. With so few days of racing, horses, trainers and jockeys will be hard to come by for the remaining tracks.
The breeding industry in the state was starting to come back after a two year closure at Les Bois five years ago. Now with no stakes structure there is little reason to have Idaho foals hit the ground.
In racing’s hey day in the 1980”s Les Bois routinely handled over $200,000 on a race card. The track drew big crowds and was the center of activity in the Boise Summer scene. Increasing pressure from the Lottery, Indian Casinos and electronic wagering hurt the track. Purses remained stable while the expense of horse training escalated.
More thorns in racing’s side came from electronics, Advanced Deposit Wagering (TVG, Day at the Races etc.) made it easy to wager from your recliner at home, so many stopped coming to brick and mortar simulcast facilities. You could get ADW with a phone AP and many went to the races and wagered on their phones, bypassing the mutual windows at the track.
Crowds in excess of 4,000 were still present on Wednesday nights, larger crowds than at Santa Anita in California. Those 4,000 people only wagered fifty to sixty thousand dollars. The tracks lost money on their live race days, and found what they thought was a savior in Historical Racing.
Racing will get through this season on the fair tracks, but with no influx of money from Les Bois, there will be little or no money for purses and operating expenses next year.