Geography Lesson: The Mountain West

Geography Lesson: The Mountain West
Photo: Les Bois Park

Far removed from the pageantry and buzz of tracks like Del Mar and Saratoga are a group of resilient tracks nestled away in the mountain west, that are currently celebrating their own summer meets. This part of the country has always fascinated and intrigued me; a part I hope to visit real soon. As a sports fan growing up in major cities, the thought of no pro team within hundreds of miles was unimaginable. Now as a horse racing fan, the thought of not having a racetrack within hundreds of miles is simple insanity; however, I have learned that this region is home to some small, yet exciting courses.

I have to admit that up until a few weeks ago, I knew nothing about Wyoming Downs and Les Bois Park. I am glad that I have taken the time to learn more about these track because they are a special piece of our sport that deserves our respect. These tracks aren’t flashy or glitzy and they don’t attract big name horses, trainers or jocks. Their purses are small, for example Les Bois has a stakes this weekend valued at $8,800. At the end of the day, however, the horses run, the bettors bet, and the spectators cheer just the same as they would at any major track in the world. So for my posting this week, I want to share a couple special facts about two of the tracks in this region.

First we’ll head to Garden City, Idaho. Les Bois Park is in the midst of their summer meet which includes both Quarter horse and Thoroughbred action. The track has recently overhauled the racing surface and done renovations to the grandstand. They pull an average attendance of over 3,500 a day, which is not too shabby in this sparsely populated region. This is the track where Idahoan Gary Stevens won his first race at the age of 16. He has been a strong supporter of racing in Idaho and according to locals, he is said to be a shoe-in for governor should he ever decide to retire! Currently, the leading jockey around Les Bois is J. Luis Torres, who is 17 for 60 during the meet. He is aboard favorite Salty Le Mousee in this weekend’s big stake race. She has already won three times this meet and will be looking for number four.

Now we will head down I-84 about 400 miles to Evanston, WY. Wyoming Downs was dark from 2009-2014 until it was repurchased by former owner, Eric Nelson. Home to both Quarters and Thoroughbreds, the track is surrounded by beautiful foothills that set the perfect backdrop to the mile long dirt oval. Horses have always been a popular icon in Wyoming, so it comes as no surprise that attendance is increasing since the track reopened. This weekend features the running of the Wyoming Downs Thoroughbred Futurity, which has a great field of 9 two-year-olds going 5 furlongs. Leading jock Uriel Dominguez will be aboard the colt Good Stuff, who is out of the graded stakes winner Popular. He is coming off a tough fought second in his last start and should be ready to rebound in this one. He will be my top choice in the $8,000 stakes (never thought I’d say that!)

Les Bois and Wyoming Downs are just two of the tracks in this unique part of the country. There are a couple more out there and I am excited to continue my journey of learning more about them. Just as the region they call home, these tracks are something that should never be overlooked!

Meet Jason Wood

I was born with an endless love for horses and racing. My dad owned several horses, so my favorite memories are either at the track or in the barn. I always tell my friends that I could read a racing program before I knew the alphabet! The Illinois racing circuit was home for many years. The majestic weeping willows along the backstretch of Arlington soon gave way to the warm winter nights under the lights at Sam Houston. I spent some time in Maryland and now find myself back at Sam Houston Race Park! Just like a stakes winner, I seem to always be shipping somewhere new!

My dad has passed on to the big track in the sky, but this sport allows me to carry a piece of him with me every time I walk around the track. I feel like I am a winner every time I get to be a part of racing, even if my pick doesn’t leave the starting gate!

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