Thursday, August 20, 2015

Sandy Downs racing season opens Saturday

The racing season at Sandy Downs will be five days this year,
Aug. 22, 23, 29 and 30 and Sept. 13.
Although the legality of historical racing machines is likely to be an issue again at the 2016 Idaho Legislature, they money they have brought in at the Double Down sports bar on Outlet Boulevard has led to a doubling of purse money during the five-day racing season at Sandy Downs, which starts Saturday.

Racing will be conducted Saturday and Sunday this weekend and next, and on Sept. 13. Gates open Saturdays at 4 p.m. with post time for the first race at 5 p.m.  Sunday’s first race will be at 1 p.m., with gates opening at noon.

The opening day card is highlighted by the Hawthorne Futurity trials for 2-year-old quarter horses.  The race series carries a prize estimated at $45,000, the largest seen in Ida Racing’s six years at Sandy Downs.

Saturday’s co-feature will be the trials for the $30,000 (est.) Double Down Derby for 3-year-old quarter horses with its final also on Sept.  For novice fans, the Nationally acclaimed Q-Aces team of handicappers and racing experts will be on hand with free seminars on both days of the opening weekend.

The leading horses, owners, trainers and jockeys in the Northwest are expected to be in action at Sandy Downs. “The effects of historical racing are even allowing us to become a national player in our sport,” said Ida Racing President Jim Bernard. Fans across the country can watch and wager on our races via the racing site, he said.

Entertainment between races will include mechanical bull rides, a free photo booth, live music and games and prizes from the daily live Colt Whitmore Show.  Kids can enjoy the fun bounce and sprinkler party, and a country barbecue and fair-style food will be available from Lucky’s Grill.

A salute to Armed Forces and Veterans will open each racing day.  Business sponsors and supporters this year include Bingham Memorial Hospital, Coors Light and TEC Distributors, Double Down Betting Bar,, Sand Hill Radio, The Post Register, Giltner Trucking and Hawthorne Animal Hospital.

Sandy Downs is located at 6855 S. 15 East.  For more information and updates, visit

Double Down, 3078 Outlet Blvd., will also offer live coverage of the races and wagering, at  in Idaho Falls.  Visit or call (208) 521-4729 for more details.

Some background on historical racing machines in Idaho

Pari-mutuel betting on horses in Idaho has been legal since 1963, and the Legislature authorized simulcasting in 1990. Before July 2011, however, simulcasting was only allowed at live horse racing facilities such as Sandy Downs in Bonneville County. In 2011, however, the Legislature passed a bill allowing simulcast horse betting from other venues, supporters arguing that off-track locations could provide a better atmosphere, food and other incentives to attract paying customers. The 2011 bill did not allow new simulcast betting venues to be set up, but instead allowed existing operations like the one at Sandy Downs to move.

In 2014 the Legislature approved HB220, allowing pari-mutuel betting on historical horse races, which is done on machines. When a player makes a wager on the machine, a race is randomly selected from a video library of over 60,000 previous races. Identifying information such as the location and date of the race, and the names of the horses and jockeys, is not shown.

The player is able to view a "Skill Graph" chart from the Daily Racing Form, showing information such as jockeys' and trainers' winning percentages, and based on this handicapping information the player picks the projected top three runners in order of finish. Many players use a “Handi Helper" feature, which allows the machine to automatically make the selections.

Early versions of the terminals looked like self-serve wagering terminals, but over time some began to mimic slot machines, with symbols on spinning reels showing the results of a player's wager and the video of the actual race relegated to a 2-inch square in the corner of the screen.

In Idaho, this has drawn the ire of anti-gambling forces and also Native American tribes who consider the machines competition to what they offer on their reservation casinos. Earlier this year, Senate Bill 1011 repealed the Legislature's prior approval of the devices, passing the House by a 49-21 vote and the Senate 25-9.

Idaho Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter vetoed the bill in April, and the Senate’s 19-16 subsequent vote to override the veto fell five votes short. Otter has called for a moratorium on any new instant racing machines and indicated that he wants a special investigative team to look into whether the machines violate the Idaho Constitution, which prohibits slot machines.