A Day at the Races: Nearly 3,000 turn out at fairgrounds on Mother’s Day

Want to schedule a fun event on Mother’s Day, one that will bring people to town?

The suggestion here would be horse racing. After all, Sunday’s nine-race program attracted an estimated 2,750 people to the Eastern Montana Fairgrounds in Miles City.

“It was a good day, a good crowd, a good handle,” said Don Richard, director of racing for the Bucking Horse Sale.

The handle was the amount wagered on the races, a total of $42,038. It was considered to be a hefty amount, but probably would have been more but for a lengthy delay prior to the fourth race when a jockey suffered a broken leg and had to be transported to the hospital.

The fourth race couldn’t start until another ambulance arrived. Thus, the final race didn’t conclude until almost 7 p.m. rather than the anticipated 5 p.m.

“The delay hurt us,” said Justin Heusner, who is here from Tulsa, Oklahoma, to manage the betting for United Tote. “The crowd kind of fell off after that.”

But with the weather cooperating, that might have been the only drawback for the racing program, which continues next Saturday and Sunday.

Shawn Mitchell of Hysham and Vonnie Lich of Clearmont, Wyoming (about 30 miles east of Sheridan) were among the early arrivals in the grandstand. They were waiting for about 20 more family members and friends.

“We just come and enjoy the races. It’s just a fun day,” Mitchell said of the annual trip that started eight years ago. 

“It’s just to be with family and friends,” Lich added. “It’s fun to watch the horses and the people.”

Kitchen said she leaves the betting at the windows to her husband Earl. “The ladies and kids all do quarters,” she said.

Jake Jovanich of Billings was there to make some wagers. Smoking a cigar, leaning against the rail, studying the program and watching the horses in the pre-race post parade, he appeared to know what he was doing.

“I’m just trying to look like I know what I’m doing,” he said, then laughed. “I love a day like this. I try to make it here as much as I can.”

How does he do with the wagering? “I break even most years,” Jovanich said.

Derrick and Garyn Tvedt of Miles City are BHS event regulars. “I’ve been coming to this since I was in college 25 years ago,” said Derrick, whose parents, Darrell and June Tvedt of Audubon, Minnesota, also attended. “My favorite is the horse racing.”

They are looking forward to the Bucking Horse Sale celebration next weekend.

“I kind of like it all,” Garyn said. “They jam-pack a lot into three days.”

Some of the women, including Megan Bowles, 26, of Miles City, were decked out in specially made hats. Bowles’ was white with red, white and blue feathers attached.

“I made it for Mother’s Day horse racing,” she said of her hobby, which is in its fourth year. “(The hats) keep getting bigger and bigger.”

She’s also looking forward to next weekend’s events.

“I love the wild horse races,” Bowles said. “”It gets the word of rodeo out to the general public. It sets a good example.”

No doubt it was a good start for the BHS.

“These horse races draw crowds,” said Derrick Tvedt, “even on Mother’s Day.”