Horse racing returning to Les Bois Park

Horse racing returning to Les Bois Park

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by Mark Johnson

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KTVB.COM

Posted on April 11, 2011 at 5:14 PM

Updated Wednesday, Nov 13 at 7:33 AM

BOISE -- Horse racing is one of Idaho's oldest sports. But for the last two years the Treasure Valley's biggest and most established race track has been idle, something Ada County says has cost it millions in lost revenue and wages. But that may be about to change.

This could be the end of a saga that began over two years ago when Capital Racing said they couldn't continue losing money at the track and gave up the lease.

Disagreements between the horsemen's association and Idaho Entertainment, which picked up the lease, along with battles with lawmakers ended in what many said was the death of horse racing in the Boise Valley... until today.

"We're gonna make this thing go at least for the next five  years," said Harry Bettis.

Longtime Idaho horseman and rancher Harry Bettis is the spokesman for a group of investors called Treasure Valley Racing. He said it is a group committed to bringing back live and simulcast horse racing to Les Bois Park.

It is a group that reads as a who's who in local business and philanthropy including Linda Yanke and Larry Williams, US Bank Regional President Jim Grigsby, and Agri-beef CEO and President Robert Rebholtz.

They are partnering with Alabama-based Green Group.

They were the only group present at today's auction. The bid started at $100,000 and quickly dropped to $75,000 annually -- the winning bid.

The horsemen were represented at the auction and said this is a good solution to a situation that has been a bad one for too long.

"It's a great day for horse racing in Idaho," said Mark Buckley, HBPA President.

This was an emotional day for Bettis who has had race horses for a long time and has been forced to pay high prices to race in California.

The announcement was not without some controversy among the three Ada County commissioners. Sharon Ullman voted against it citing a campaign contribution to Vern Bisterfeldt's 2010 campaign from a political action committee known as "Winning for Idaho." It's a group that represented the Greene Group, which is the one-half partner in today's deal.

Commission Chair Rick Yzaguirre said it is a "discussion we will have at another time."

In addition to the $75,000 annual lease, the county will also receive revenue from the betting windows in the amount of one-quarter of one percent, providing that exceeds $10 million for the season, something that horse racing experts say shouldn't be a problem with the daily simulcasting at the Turf Club.

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