As one of the few currently operating racetracks in the midst of the Covid-19 crisis, Fonner Park has been attracting tons of interest from horse players. That may have a ripple effect in the form of a second season of racing at the venue.
A report on BloodHorse notes that the Hall County Livestock Improvement Association and Fonner Park have their sights set on adding some dates. That would be pending the approval of the Nebraska State Racing Commission, which isn’t scheduled to meet again until April 22.
Fonner Park CEO Chris Kotulak shared some insight on the plans, which calls for a new season to begin on May 4 and commence on May 31.
“While no spectator racing continues to be conducted at Fonner Park under COVID-19 precaution and prevention guidelines, the continuation of racing is still very much a day-to-day prospect,” he said. “The ability to continue racing with minimal national and global wagering opportunities has cast a brilliant light on Fonner Park. There has been a chunk of mutuel handle on the Fonner Park races, but money bet out of state only represents a chink of revenue compared to money bet on-track.”
As one of the few options for early-week racing in the current environment, Fonner has been pulling in a daily all-sources mutuel handle of over $2.8 million. As Kotulak adds, that’s a boon for the venue, but the short-term windfall only goes so far.
“Fonner Park operates on a wickedly narrow profit margin. What might seem like a successful spell of handle one week might only equate to survival or even a deficit another week. We cannot be swooned by sexy handles this year when we have to consider purse money for 2021 and the hundreds of thousands of dollars of expenses and repairs we face annually,” Kotulak continued. “Another important financial factor is that once other tracks return with their racing, the mutuel handle on Fonner Park will drop. My goal is not to simply make hay this year. I have a responsibility to Fonner Park, the horsemen, and the city of Grand Island, Neb., to remain viable for many years to come.”
For the week ahead, there are three cards on the docket at Fonner. There’s also a Pick 5 jackpot carryover which currently stands at $272,132. Here’s the current schedule.
Monday, April 20
9-Race Card Beginning at 4 PM ET
$30k Fonner Park Special – Race 4
Tuesday, April 21
9-Race Card beginning at 4 PM ET
$8.4k Allowance Optional Claiming – Race 8
Wednesday, April 22
9-Race Card beginning at 4 PM ET
$7k Allowance – Race 8
If the Pick 5 jackpot isn’t hit by a single user on Monday, then a portion will be paid out to winning tickets while the remainder of the pool will carryover. For the first racing day of the week at Fonner, the Pick 5 begins with Race 5 at 5:48 PM ET.
As the pool continues to grow, that sets up the possibility of some nice paydays for winning bettors. For example, the last card at Fonner was last Wednesday, and the Pick 5 paid out $448.85 to winning tickets while the remaining funds went back into the pot.
Outside of Fonner, here’s what the rest of the racing week looks like.
Will Rogers – Cards on Monday, April 20 through Wednesday, April 22
Tampa Bay – Cards on Wednesday, April 22 and Friday, April 24
Gulfstream Park – Cards on Thursday, April 23 and Friday, April 24
Oaklawn Park – Cards on Thursday, April 23 and Friday, April 24
Remington Park – Cards on Thursday, April 23 and Friday, April 24
On the carryover front, Tampa Bay has a Pick 6 which is up to $13,835. There was a mandatory payout of the Rainbow Pick 6 at Gulfstream on Sunday. The pool grew to a whopping $7.3 million before all was said and done and paid out $20,158.94 to winning bettors.