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Horse races return to Great Falls

horse races in great falls
Sparky Kottke
Mitch Tropila
Posted at 7:00 PM, Aug 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-02 12:58:13-04

GREAT FALLS — The 2021 horse racing season was an extremely popular event in Great Falls over the last two weekends. After being without horse racing in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Great Falls Turf Club brought back the event for two weekends of fun and excitement.

“I think just to see the excitement of the fans and the crowd and you get a close race down to the wire and fans are up standing, you can hear the bleachers getting pounded on and stuff, I mean that’s what it’s all about, it’s for the people, it’s for the fans,” said Great Falls Turf Club president Sparky Kottke.

With two weeks of over 90-degree weather, the organization has had to take extra precautions to keep their horses and jockeys safe.

Their first racing weekend of the season brought in over 3,000 spectators in just one day, and many guests encountered long lines and vacant teller booths.

“We were so popular Saturday, we didn’t have enough Tellers, but I tell ya, the community of Great Falls and Northcentral Montana is so good, we had people calling us Saturday night offering to be a Teller for free,” said Mitch Tropila of the Turf Club.

With this year’s horse race events coming to an end, the Great Falls Turf Club will begin preparations for next years races, taking place the weekend before and the weekend of the Montana State Fair.

(JULY 21, 2021) After being without horse racing in 2020 due to COVID-19, the Great Falls Turf Club has brought back one of the most exciting events of the summer starting this weekend at Montana ExpoPark.

The non-profit organization has been the catalyst behind the race for the past decade since the club’s formation in 2010. Club President Sparky Kottke and his team have taken pride in handling every aspect of the event. Whether it be the maintenance of the fairgrounds, handling its employees, or putting up banners, the club does all the heavy lifting to make it happen.

“Horse racing has been such a big part of our history in Montana and it’s important to keep it going,” Kottke explained. “I think the hard work that we put in to keep it going is just a reward in itself just to have the races going.”

With the community support from local business sponsorships, county allocation funds and yearly fundraising, the organization works towards covering all the expenses of the race.

“It is quite a big financial responsibility to make sure that we get enough money raised to pay all of our bills and at least break even and hopefully make a bit of money to put back here into the fairgrounds for improvements,” Kottke said.

John Hayes, chairman of the Montana Board of Horse Racing, has seen first-hand the success the organization has done each and every year and how the community support has come back around to help the city of Great Falls.

“The impact on our hotels, motels, it’s huge, it’s huge what the race track brings,” Hayes said. “So I think they’re doing a heck of a job.”

The races will be on July 24, 25, 30, 31, and August 1.

Post time is 1 p.m., except for July 30, when post time is 5 p.m.

For more information, click here to visit the Turf Club website.