Evanston, Wyo. • Live horse racing will return to southwest Wyoming this summer, which should prove beneficial to Utah owners and trainers.
The Wyoming Pari-mutuel Commission on Thursday approved a four-day meet at Sweetwater Downs in Rock Springs, starting Aug. 20 and 21 and concluding Sept. 3 and 4.
An investment group headed by Eugene Joyce, the son of former Wyoming Downs owner Joe Joyce, also received commission approval to operate off-track betting sites in Evanston and Rock Springs.
The rulings could be the first step toward returning live racing to Wyoming Downs. The track, located 85 miles from downtown Salt Lake City in Evanston, has been dark the past two years.
When word first surfaced that Joyce was preparing a presentation to the Pari-mutuel Commission, the president of the Utah Quarter Horse Racing Association was an outspoken supporter.
"No question," said Stu Sprouse. "Anybody putting on racing is going to get our support. I'm sure the horsemen here in Utah would support it."
Because Utah is not a pari-mutuel state, owners and trainers have limited options as far as racing opportunities for their horses.
A pari-mutuel meet in Rock Springs and a possible return to live racing at Wyoming Downs will help their need for places to run.
According to Joyce, he plans to open the off-track sites in Evanston and Rock Springs by mid-July.
He hopes to reopen facilities in Casper and Cheyenne later this summer and eventually add as many as four or six other markets around the state.
Off-track betting in Wyoming is important to Utah horsemen like Sprouse because it helps support live racing in Rock Springs and, possibly, at Wyoming Downs.
This summer's four-day live meet at Sweetwater Downs will feature three races with an estimated combined purse of more than $100,000.
The Sweetwater Futurity is a $20,000-added event for 2-year-olds over 350 yards. The trials will be run Aug. 20. The final is scheduled for Sept. 4.
The Sweetwater Derby is a $10,000-added race for 3-year-olds over 400 yards. The trials will be run Aug. 21. The final is scheduled for Sept. 3.
The 89 & Under Derby is a $10,000-added event. It is for 3-year-olds that have never posted a speed index of 90 or did not post a speed index of 90 before Jan. 1. Trials for the 350-yard race will be held Aug. 21. The final is scheduled for Sept. 3.