By T. D. Thornton
One of Oregon's four mixed-meet racing fairs has dropped out of the rotation for this summer. The manager of the Harney County Fair in Burns told the Oregon Racing Commission (ORC) May 20 the track won't be running July 24 and 25, but that the fair's management wants to improve its focus on racing so the meet can resume in 2022 after a two-year hiatus.
Last year none of the Oregon fairs raced because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The state's lone commercial track, Grants Pass Downs, has been in action since May 10, and meets are to follow at Eastern Oregon Livestock Show in Union (June 11-13), Crooked River Roundup in Prineville (July 14-17), and Tillamook County Fair in Tillamook (Aug. 11-14).
ORC executive director Jack McGrail said that as coronavirus restrictions ease, those venues could be racing in front of full-capacity crowds by the summer.
Jordon Bennett, the fair manager for Harney County, thanked commissioners for the work they had put into trying to get Harney up and running, including by providing the fairs circuit tracks with additional operations funding. As of last month's ORC meeting, Harney had intended to race in 2021.
In turn, commission members thanked Bennett for his candid remarks on how Harney can do better next year.
“I feel as if horse racing here has been kind of haphazard,” Bennett admitted to the board. “We haven't given our full effort, which is something I'm trying to work on. So we're trying to get all of our ducks in a row for 2022…. We're committed. We just want to make sure we do it right.”