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Horse racing in Columbus appears to be in jeopardy

September 12, 2018

COLUMBUS — Horse racing’s future in Columbus might be in jeopardy.

After nearly 80 seasons of fans flocking to Ag Park, the track manager is mulling whether it should close its gates to the sport for the final time, according to a Monday afternoon email from Columbus Exposition & Racing Inc.

“CER has suspended its simulcast operation and is evaluating the future of horse racing in Columbus,” the unsigned email said. “We are currently in negotiations with various parties and hope to make a decision regarding racing in the near future.

“We would like nothing more than to continue the rich 80-plus-year tradition of racing in Columbus and are working as hard as possible to make this happen.”

Phone calls to the company weren’t returned.

A notice taped to the door of the simulcasting facility Thursday informed patrons of Ag Park that operations had been suspended. The note said to follow the group’s Facebook page or call the number on the website to follow up on the situation.

Brian Palmer, general manager of Ag Park, declined to comment on the situation, saying instead to contact Columbus Exposition & Racing. The company took over horse racing operations from the Platte County Agricultural Society in 2013 after the ag society struggled to maintain profitability on live racing.

This year’s live racing meet included 14 dates between Aug. 3 and Labor Day.

Last year, wagering on live races and races simulcast to the wagering facilities in Omaha, Lincoln, Grand Island and Columbus totaled $67.9 million, the lowest total since simulcast wagering was added in Nebraska in the 1980s.

Statewide, wagering through July was down 5.4 percent from last year.

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