The director of the North Dakota Racing Commission says he’s optimistic about this year’s horse racing season.
Live racing is underway at Chippewa Downs in Belcourt. The first races were held last weekend.
And the crowds?
"They're still down a little bit from two years ago," said Commissioner Director Jack Schultz. "They're up from last year, obviously, but down a little bit from 2019."
Schultz said he’s optimistic crowds will pick up as the meet continues.
Races at the North Dakota Horse Park in Fargo begin July 8th, and will be racing two days a week over four consecutive weeks. Schultz said he thinks those races will draw good crowds.
"Probably better than last year," Schultz said. "And we had good crowds last year."
Schultz said he's hopeful the Horse Park will see 1200 to 1500 people per day.
"That might be a little optimistic," Schultz said. "But I want to be optimistic."
Schultz said he thinks overall, the industry is starting to grow back, after being down for a couple of years.
"I think our horse numbers are doing better," Schultz said. "I really anticipate the crowds to get bigger at Belcourt and in Fargo."
Meanwhile, the Racing Commission is looking for new horse tracks.
"One example -- we're meeting with the Wells County Fairgrounds in Fessenden, where they used to race horses, to see if there is any interest in reviving the sport there."