Attendance is down, money is short, but there's just something about that rumble of hooves on dirt. Horse racing is an Oklahoma tradition. And Wednesday was the first day of racing at Fair Meadows in Tulsa.
As News on 6 business reporter Steve Berg explains, they find a way to make it work.
To really get the feeling of what it's like to be at the race, Elena Daugherty says you have to be at the race. "Oh the speed, the power, you can hear it, you can smell the sweat. It's all right there."
For whatever reason, not everybody agrees. Attendance has slipped at Remington Park in Oklahoma City, which starts its season earlier. And Fair Meadows director Ron Shotts expects the same here. "We've seen here what we've seen statewide, the growth of the Indian gaming has certainly affected our live race meets."
Shotts performs a near-magic act each year, keeping the races going at Fair Meadows. The good news is they get a cut of all that Indian casino money and that's made the difference. "That's been a lifesaver for the fairgrounds."
So while he rides the financial rollercoaster, racehorse owner Suzie Marrs rides the emotional one. "My stomach is really sick, really sick right before the race. No, we just get really excited before every race."
And nothing gives a better sense of the tradition of horse racing in Oklahoma than seeing owner John Campbell, still going strong at 100 years old and also happy about the casino money. "I think it's a good thing. I think it'll help us. I don't know when it'll start doing that. This business has been kind of bad for race horse people."
It's not easy, but Shotts says they're keeping their lead on expenses. "Y'know, with the $2-million we get from the gaming revenue, and our simulcast, we should be okay."
Fair Meadows is also undergoing some big renovations. Most of it should be finished next year.