by Jessica Schroeder, assistant fair liaison, the U.S. Trotting Association
Columbus, OH — Despite 2.25 inches of rain falling the evening before the races in Elkhorn, Wis., not a single horse scratched as horsemen were eager to get the Wisconsin harness racing season underway. A total of 52 horses entered and started in 12 races, each with a purse of $175. Charted race times varied from 2:04.4 to 2:28.3.
“Racing in Wisconsin isn’t about making money,” Gabe Wand, Wisconsin Harness Horse Association president said. “It’s about racing horses and having fun.”
And racing in Wisconsin surely is a fun, family affair. Hall of Famer Del Insko and his son Tom brought four youngsters to the limestone track from their home base in South Beloit, Ill. The DeLong clan of Clinton brought eight equine youngsters to the track. Brothers Jesse and Bo train, while their sons, Austin and Pat share the driving duties alongside their fathers. Other family members brought their teams of youngsters to the track as well: local father-daughter team Cliff O’Beirne and Becky Swinehart; Harvard, Ill. father-son combo O.L. “Buck” and Wayne Weaver (Buck even announced the races as well); and father-son Russ and Ben Gald ventured to Elkhorn from the western part of the state.
Rick Tittsler, a newly elected WHHA board member, has been actively pursuing new ways to promote harness racing in the state.
“We’re boosting our attendance across Wisconsin by targeting groups of people, not just individuals and families. For example, senior centers, Big Brothers Big Sisters, flower clubs, schools, scouting groups and area service clubs receive our press releases and are encouraged to attend en masse.
“With e-mail and fax machines, anyone trying to promote harness racing can reach out to large blocks of potential fans with great efficiency,” Tittsler continued. “Here in Wisconsin, we also use posters, news articles, and radio interviews whenever possible. One great place for new fans to get race dates is on event calendars at area chambers of commerce, state travel and tourism Web sites and local TV/radio station Web sites. Many of our race dates include free parking and free admission — that’s a great entertainment value and we’re promoting that aggressively.”
Racing continues in Wisconsin next Sunday (June 28) at 1 p.m. with a matinee in Mineral Point. For a full listing of the Wisconsin racing schedule, visit the WHHA Web site at www.wiharnessracing.com/schedule.html.