Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
(Scott Sommerdorf | The Salt Lake Tribune) Horse racing returns to Wyoming Downs on Sept. 14 and 15 for the first time in four years. In this photo, looking from the infield past the stretch, to the stands at Wyoming Downs racetrack. The track has been dormant for 4-5 years, but Eric and Paul Nelson are working to bring it back to life, Thursday, April 25, 2013.
Horse Racing: For Wyoming Downs, a new post time approaches
Horse racing » Utah trainers herald reopening of track.
First Published Apr 27 2013 01:47 pm • Last Updated Apr 28 2013 12:16 am

Evanston, Wyo. • The creatures now inhabiting Wyoming Downs have nothing to do with horse racing.

Giant owls nest in the beams of the grandstand roof. Ducks and geese live the good life on the sparkling blue infield pond and nearby Bear River. Deer and antelope regularly wander through the barn area, sharing the grasses with cattle and sheep, which also have found their way onto the property from nearby ranches.

At a glance

Wyoming Downs timeline

May 1985 » Richard Sims and his partners open a racetrack with a 5,000-seat grandstand about 10 miles north of Evanston, Wyo.

February 1989 » Heartland Federal Savings of Oklahoma begins foreclosure proceedings

April 1989 » Sold to Joe Joyce, a well-known and respected horse racing executive in New York and Chicago

September 1998 » Joyce retires and sells the racetrack to Las Vegas-based businessman Eric Nelson

September 2006 » Sold by Nelson to Wyoming Entertainment LLC and its chief operating officer, Eric Spector

July 2009 » Closed by Spector after a greatly reduced eight-day meet

December 2011 » Purchased at public auction by Nelson, the previous owner, for $450,000

February 2013 » Nelson announces plans to resume live racing after Wyoming Legislature passes historic racing bill

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

Behind the locked gate and no-trespassing sign at the entrance to the racetrack’s parking lot, a tranquil ecosystem has evolved where horses once thundered down the stretch and fans cheered them to the finish line.

Once again, however, times are changing.

Wyoming Downs, which closed in 2009 after 25 years of racing, is being brought back to life.

Perhaps as soon as this fall but almost certainly by the summer of 2014, new owner Eric Nelson plans to resume live racing. He hopes to run an abbreviated weekend meet in September, followed by a 16- or 20-day meet next year.

Charlie Moore, the executive director of the Wyoming Parimutuel Commission, confirms that Nelson has applied for racing dates in September.

But will it happen?

"It always starts as a dream, and as you work through everything, it can become reality," Moore said. "So we’ll have to see. Time will tell. But there is a lot of work to be done ... and the commission will be prudent. We will do our job to protect the human and equine participants in racing in our state."

For Utah-based trainers like Chad Giles and Ron Moosman, the rebirth of Wyoming Downs is beyond critical. Many believe it will save the state’s horse industry by providing a close-to-home place to run.

story continues below
story continues below

"In Utah, we need Wyoming Downs," Giles said. "Our horse market had gone down tremendously in the last few years — our sales and everything else. We definitely need Wyoming Downs to open again. I think it’s the only thing that can help our horse market."

Moosman, who is based in Lindon, Utah, is even more adamant.

"Wyoming Downs isn’t in Utah," he said, "but it’s absolutely vital to the horse business here. ... We’re down to a do-or-die situation."

Giles had "30 or 40" quarter horses in training five years ago. Forty employees worked for him. But today, he trains 12 horses at his Stockton, Utah, facility with the help of his wife and son.

"It’s been a losing battle for owners," Giles said. "A lot of them have just gotten out. They say, ‘It’s just not worth it.’ And I can’t tell them any different because I know it isn’t."

The dire situation could be changing, though.

Along with Nelson’s willingness to shoulder the financial risk of reopening Wyoming Downs, the state also has stepped up with new "historic racing" legislation.

The bill, which passed in February, allows wagering terminals to be placed at racetracks and off-track betting sites throughout the state. Patrons can bet on the races shown on the terminals.

"It’s like slot-machine racing," Nelson said. "To some extent, it will allow us to compete with the casinos in Wendover."

If projections are correct, the historic racing bill will pump millions of dollars into the horse industry in Wyoming — and, by extension, Utah.

"It will have a profound, long-term effect on the success of Wyoming Downs," Nelson said. "It helps us plan and move forward."

Next Page >

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment

About Reader Comments

Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.