GREAT FALLS — For the first time since the late 1800s, the Montana summer will be without an organized horse race event.
The Great Falls Turf Club announced Thursday that its 2020 races, scheduled to take place over five days in late July before and during the Montana State Fair, are canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This comes on the heels of the cancellation of the Bucking Horse Sale in Miles City, which features two days of racing.
Great Falls Turf Club President Sparky Kottke said the group began to worry in late February as coronavirus continued to spread throughout the globe. The club started in 2012, but Kottke said he never imagined they would have to cancel for something like this.
“Like somebody I heard say, it's like a one-in-100 year epidemic going on here, you know, something that probably won't happen again in my life time. So yeah we've never had any ideas anything like this would ever happen,” Kottke said.
There were a lot of factors to consider. Obviously public health, but also finances. With many businesses struggling just to stay afloat, asking sponsors for money was simply not going to happen.
“We've had some calls from some horsemen and that type of thing and they're not real happy, but I think most people understand that that is the right thing to do at this time,” Kottke said.
However, Kottke said by canceling this year, the club won’t take a hit financially, so it should be safe for next summer. The club will meet with Cascade County commissioners and the Montana Board of Horse Racing later this fall to set up the 2021 races.
“It was a tough decision and we hate not to race this year but I think for what's going on in our community, in our world, it's the best thing for us here in Great Falls,” he added.