$75,000 - Fonner Parks Biggest Prize


Fonner Park sees its biggest race of the year, and offers a big prize to go along with it.

Twenty-four years of racing has allowed them to increase the winnings, making it the biggest in Nebraska for horsemen -- a $75,000 payout.

Officials say it's the fans who keep the races going.

"Horse racing has changed a lot over the last 20 years," Chief Operating Officer for Fonner Park, Bruce Swihart, said. "This is our sixtieth season of racing, and really, fortunately for us, we have been able to have diversity over the years."

"We're still a popular place," he said. "The weather isn't the best, but we have a good facility. We've constructed the Heartland Events Center. We're fortunate to have the crowds, and we'll keep pressing on."

Swihart said their biggest challenge this year was losing four full days of racing due to bad weather.

Some horse racing fans said the weather on Saturday played a big part in their planning.

Jeannie Hascall and Jane Kaipust from Omaha were among many in the crowd that traveled to spend their day in Grand Island.

Hascall said she and her friends used to spend a lot of time in Aksarben Coliseum in Omaha.

"We like it here," she said. "They don't have live racing in Omaha except a couple times a year."

"I hope it's [Fonner Park] here for a while," Kaipust said. "Looks like there are plenty of live racing fans left. People love to bet."

Fans will be able to bet for one more week. The last race takes place May 4.