Horse racing at Will Rogers Downs

Friday, February 24th 2006, 10:17 am
By: News On 6

After months and months of preparations, the gates opened Friday for real at Will Rogers Downs in Claremore. Horse racing has returned and while the horses are flying down the track, will the state's racing "industry" be bogged down?

News on 6 business reporter Steve Berg says real horses and real dirt flying, this was no simulcast fed over a satellite.

Race fans got up close on the track and folks like Kenneth Wilson were chomping at the bit. "Well, I'll tell you what, it's long overdue. Y'know we got all these good horses in Oklahoma and no place to run 'em, so I hope it really goes over big."

The stands were a bit sparse though and the industry will have to move fast to catch up with the big boys in Arkansas and Texas.

"Did you notice Will Rogers today? There weren't many horses there." Sam Hester of Tulsa has raised race horses since the 1940's. He says the biggest prize money in Claremore Friday is about half as big as the biggest prize money in Hot Springs. And he says it will be tough for Oklahoma to go head-to-head. "We've let ours overlap race meets and this to me is a no-no." At least for now.

Cherokee Nation Enterprises David Stewart says it's a chicken or the egg situation. "Course they can always be better, and the more people that we have come out and the more successful we are, the more purses we have, and the better horses, so it is a process that we have to go through."