Horse racing is quite a popular sport in the United States, but the growth of the sport and its current popularity are not the same in every state.
Why? Well, for a couple of reasons, the biggest one being the legalization of pari-mutuel betting. Some states shined a green light on wagering on horse racing, while others are still in the grey area.
Idaho, known for its potatoes and… horse racing tracks? You bet! Surely it might not create the same enthusiasm as the Kentucky Derby odds by TwinSpires, but they still have some interesting races and events.
If you’re looking to spice up your usual Idaho itinerary of scenic hikes and potato museum tours, why not trot over to some of the state’s best horse racing tracks?
Let’s gallop through this guide, shall we?
History of Horse Racing in Idaho
The Idaho State Racing Commission (SRC) regulates racing in Idaho. The Horse Racing Act of 1963 was passed, allowing for pari-mutuel betting. Idaho allows parimutuel betting on horse and dog racing, both live and simulcast. There are racetracks and county fairgrounds that feature live horse racing.
Horse racing law was initially enacted in 1957, but was rejected by the Governor. Then, in March 1963, the legislature approved the Racing Act, overriding the governor’s veto and legalizing pari-mutuel gambling on horse racing for the first time in 20 years. The Gem County Fairgrounds and the Eastern Idaho State Fair hosted Idaho’s inaugural pari-mutuel races in 1964. The next year, the North Idaho Fair again featured live horse racing.
The SRC was founded inside the Idaho State Police Department to ensure the integrity of horse racing and simulcasting by licensing, regulating, and supervising all racing meetings in the state. The SRC is made up of a three-member board nominated by the governor to three-year terms. Members must be inhabitants or citizens of the state.
Horse Racing Tracks in Idaho Throughout History
In the mid-1970s, tracks in Coeur d’Alene and Boise were both operational. Idaho also has a lengthy fair meet season, with these events typically lasting three to five days over two weekends. The first week is designated for trials for that track’s marquee race, which takes place on the final weekend. Sandy Downs is the exception since it lasts twelve days spread across four weekends. Sandy Downs is also home to Idabet, an internet wagering service that supports Idaho racing.
Les Bois Park racetrack was originally inaugurated in May 1970, with live horse races. Les Bois Park closed in early 2009 due to disagreements between the track owners, horse owners, and Ada County. Racing returned to the track in April 2011, when Treasure Valley Racing LLC (TVR), a newly formed company, was granted a five-year license.
Les Bois Park in Boise returned to activity in 2011, signaling a positive development. Boise’s 2011 season must have been a success, considering they ran a significantly longer meet over four months in 2012. Lots of useful information about Idaho racing may be found on the McChump Racing Tour website.
Top Horse Racing Tracks in Idaho
Les Bois Park
Les Bois Park may not be the largest horse racing track in the United States, but it is the only one in Idaho. The Les Bois Park track is a three-quarter-mile horse racing track that stages several quarter-horse and thoroughbred horse races each year. It is available to the public and located at the corner of Glenwood and Chinden in Boise; however, bettors must be of gambling age before placing a wager.
The Les Bois Park racetrack has a typical oval form. The homerun stretch is around 660 feet long, and it is thrilling to see the horses chew up the ground as they rush home in this last stretch.
The race season at Les Bois Park racetrack typically begins in May and concludes in August, however, the exact dates may vary from year to year. During this period, booths may be simply hired by completing an application form and submitting it to management. Les Bois Park has recently received public notice owing to the facilities management’s substantial $421,000 debt.
The track is currently inactive and had a lot of ups and downs throughout history as we mentioned before.
Parimutuel wagering began in Pocatello in 1964, but not at Pocatello Downs. The Bannock County Fairgrounds served as the first race location. Prior to 1965, a dispute over Sunday racing compelled the Pocatello Racing Association’s leadership to quickly build a track far outside the city boundaries, near the municipal airport. The facility was named Pocatello Downs.
Pocatello Downs hosted races until 1968, when pressure from horsemen forced racing back to the original Bannock Fairgrounds site, and Pocatello Downs was closed. The track appears to still be at the airport, and the term Pocatello Downs is now linked with the fairgrounds.
As you can see, there aren’t any big horse racing tracks that are specifically dedicated to hosting horse racing events in Idaho. It seems like most of the horse racing tracks throughout history faced some financial problems, and therefore few of them survived.
Let’s hope that the future of horse racing in Idaho looks bright and that the sport gets the proper horse racing track that deserves.