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Published December 15 2010

North Dakota Horse Park plans races for 2011

Horse racing appears headed back to Fargo in 2011.

The North Dakota Racing Commission on Tuesday approved four weekends of racing next summer at Fargo’s North Dakota Horse Park, a track that was dormant last summer due to financial troubles.

The approved dates are: July 22-24; July 29-30; Aug. 5-7; Aug. 12-14.

“It’s extremely important (to bring racing back to Fargo),” said Winston Satran, the Director of Racing for the North Dakota Racing Commission. “It gives a second venue in North Dakota. It allows people who own race horses in North Dakota to stay in North Dakota for a couple of months between Belcourt and Fargo.”

Satran said the racing commission will meet with North Dakota Horse Park officials in February to determine how many race dates the park’s current financial situation can handle, and to determine how much the commission will allocate for racing in Fargo.

Horse Racing North Dakota President Mike Cichy doesn’t believe that all of the dates will be run.

“I’d be very surprised if they are,” Cichy said. “The first ones to go would be the ones in July.”

Race dates will be finalized in February, Satran said.

“I’m fairly confident there is going to be racing in Fargo this summer,” Satran said. “How much? I don’t know. That is the question.”

The North Dakota Horse Park was forced to close last April due to roughly $150,000 in outstanding debt from 2009.

The park as of last year also owed $1.4 million to the city of Fargo, and $250,000 to the Greater Fargo-Moorhead Economic Development Corp.

The city spent $1,477,789 to extend sewer, water and other infrastructure to the horse park, which opened in 2003.

The 2009 debt was held by several vendors, including food and beverage dealers, advertisers, a security firm, a photographer and a machinery dealer.

Cichy said the track won’t hire a new general manager yet, but he does believe one would be hired in the future if the track continues to see financial growth.

The state racing commission withheld funding from its purse and promotion funds due to the unpaid debt.

Satran said in April that the commission would work to reinstate racing in Fargo if the 2009 debt was repaid.

“It’s been one of our specific goals to have this come about,” Satran said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Heath Hotzler at (701) 241-5562.

Hotzler’s blogs can be found at www.areavoices.com