Gloomy days are on the horizon for Montana horse racing. Former operator of simulcasting in the state, as well as the Great Falls and Missoula meets, and for a while there sorta looked like a savior Eric Spector, was unceremoniously asked to pack up and leave over unpaid bills or something, which he did, taking a lot of simulcast equipment with him. (This is the story I've been told.) The State of Montana was going to take over the simulcasting operations, and new operators would be found for Great Falls and Missoula, along with more race days, and then a miracle would occur. Hooray! Well, not so hooray, as it turned out.
Unfortunately, the kickin' out was apparently done without a whole lot of thought for what came next. The cost of getting the simulcasting up and running again was far more than the Board of Horse Racing anticipated, which reduced the amount of money for purses. The simulcasts in some cities never resumed at all. Without the guarantee of simulcast money (and other lease length disagreements), the Cascade County commissioners could not come to terms with the one (1) party who bid to run the meet in Great Falls, so the 2011 meet was canceled. Without the Great Falls meet as a feeder, Missoula canceled its meet, too. Bottom line: A pretty sparse 2011 season of live horse racing in Montana. Like, real sparse.
Luckily, for now there's still the Bucking Horse meet that happens over two weekends in May. So I stopped in for the first weekend in case this was the last year for this one, too, the weekend before the place goes absolutely nuts on Preakness weekend with the Bucking Horse Sale and the parade and the street dancin' and all those other doin's. Quite a bit more reserved, it turns out. And much smaller crowd. And room to sit in the grandstand. But I still had lots of fun. My only complaint? GET SOME DANG BEER FLAVORS BESIDES LIGHT! Geez, Louise.
One minorly humorous episode: A friend from Billings came along, and in one race spent $12 on some exacta boxes or something. When some of his numbers came in he was ecstatic, because it was a couple long price horses. He was sure he was in the clover. When the payouts were posted, sure enough, he'd taken down the entire exacta pool on his own! The pool of $14, that is ... and he got back $10.something, after takeout and breakage. Now there's a good investment of $12. Needless to say, neither of us bet any exactas the rest of the day.