Fonner Park

After a Year to Remember, Fonner Park Returns Friday

In 2020, America discovered Fonner Park in Grand Island, Nebraska. With COVID-19 raging, Fonner was one of a handful of tracks able to soldier on in the months of March, April and May, producing handle numbers that shattered anything they had done before.  Jockeys, trainers and horses who had been toiling in obscurity for years were thrust front and center, their every move covered by TVG. Fonner was a feel-good story at a time when those were in short supply. The little track is back. Fonner's 2021 meet begins Friday,...

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Curtain Comes Down on Historic Fonner Park Meet

As the meet was winding down Wednesday on the final day of racing in 2020 at Fonner Park, trainer Kelli Martinez was getting ready to ship her stable to Prairie Meadows. The Fonner meet was a good one for Martinez, who was second in the standings entering the day with 35 winners, and she was in no hurry to leave. It wasn't just the winners, it was the memories that she would be leaving behind. "It was a stressful meet but it was a very different and very successful year...

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COVID-19 Trends Show Per-Capita Spikes in Several Racetrack Towns

A New York Times study published Tuesday reporting where the COVID-19 outbreak is peaking and waning based on per-capita population statistics shows that Grand Island, Nebraska, where Fonner Park is located, is currently second in the nation in terms of news cases reported in the last two weeks. Grand Island has a population of 85,000. The Times reported 764 coronavirus cases there in the last two weeks, meaning the per-thousand infection number is 8.98. Only Marion, Ohio, was higher (32.13) based on per-capita rankings. On Apr. 22, the Nebraska Racing...

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Fonner Park Adds Racing Dates

Fonner Park's race meet will now extend 12 additional dates through the month of May after a 5-0 vote on the matter by the Nebraska Racing Commission Wednesday. When COVID-19 health restrictions were enacted in March, Fonner began conducting spectator-free racing while shifting its traditional Friday through Sunday racing schedule to Monday through Wednesday to fill the simulcasting void left by closed tracks nationwide. The meet was to have ceased Apr. 29. "We have a condition book that's already been written and is on standby for a Monday-through-Wednesday basis and...

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Fonner Park to Seek Additional Racing Days

After hinting at the prospect last week, Fonner Park has announced its intention to continue racing through the month of May. One of just a handful of tracks currently holding Thoroughbred racing--without spectators--the Nebraska track's meet was scheduled to end Apr. 29. It will seek approval from the Nebraska State Racing Commission for a second meet, which would begin Monday, May 4 and end May 31. "While no spectator racing continues to be conducted at Fonner Park under COVID-19 precaution and prevention guidelines, the continuation of racing is still very...

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Fonner Park Meet May Be Extended

Fonner Park, the Grand Island, Nebraska track that has seen record handle over the last several weeks, may stay open past the scheduled shutdown of the current meet. Horsemen and track management are in talks to extend the meet through the month of May. Currently, the meet is scheduled to end Apr. 29. "We are currently in talks with Fonner Park in hopes we will be able to run there through the month of May," said Nebraska HBPA President Bob Moser, Jr. "I am optimistic. We've had really good discussions...

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Week in Review: Sport Primed for Spectator-Free Racing. But Then What?

Horseplayers were up in arms last week over a controversial disqualification at previously under-the-radar Fonner Park during a $4.1-million pandemic-inflated Pick Five sequence. Off-the-beaten-path Will Rogers Downs is flirting with $10 million in weekly handle fueled largely by bettors who, prior to the coronavirus outbreak, would have had difficulty pinpointing that track on a map. Amid the dystopia triggered by racetrack closures nationwide, such rapt attention and robust wagering on the five Thoroughbred tracks still running (Oaklawn Park, Gulfstream Park, and Tampa Bay Downs are the others) could be viewed...

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#FreeDataFriday – Volume 29: Let the Stewards Speak

The general lack of racing around America in light of local restrictions due to the impact of COVID-19 has focused the attention of customers on a select number of races at any one time. A natural byproduct has been collective social media outrage at a pair of stewards' decisions which demoted winners, once Sunday at Oaklawn Park and another on Tuesday at Fonner Park. This is not a story about the Thoroughbred Idea Foundation's suggestion that North America should shift its rules philosophy to the international standard--known as Category 1....

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Fonner Park Meet to Continue

With the two-week experiment to continue racing at Fonner Park having resulted in record handle numbers for the Grand Island, Nebraska track, management has agreed to keep racing going through the month of April. The 2020 meet is scheduled to close May 2. Three weeks ago, horsemen were told that Fonner was shutting down because of the coronavirus. They went to management and reached an agreement to stay open for a trial period. A track that normally ran Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, Fonner went to a Monday-through-Wednesday schedule where it...

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Little Fonner Park Soldiers on in Face of Coronavirus

Perhaps the most off-the-beaten-track in horse racing, Fonner Park sits isolated in Grand Island, Nebraska, unknown to most horseplayers and having to get by without any casino subsidies. Yet somehow it has survived, racing every year since it opened in 1954. The goal now is to make it another 36 days. As one track after another announces the cancellation of live racing due to COVID-19, Fonner is still going. Considering the obstacles, that doesn't seem possible, but horsemen and management came together last week with a plan they hope will...

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