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At the Track

Horse racing returns to Le Bois Park


Since its inception in the early '90s, the Idaho Cup has been the most prestigious race day for Idaho Thoroughbred and quarter horse owners and breeders. But 2005 has been a difficult year for local horsemen, and the next race on Saturday will not include the quarter horse championships, which took place at Sandy Downs in Idaho Falls on July 30. (Congratulations to Futurity winner Fast Red Leggs and to Derby winner Sign of Pride.)

Regardless of the loss of Idaho's quarterhorse race to Sandy Downs, live horse racing returns to Les Bois Park this Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The weekend marks the first time since the 1980s that racing occurs during the Western Idaho Fair. Your $6 ticket to the Fair gets you into the races, and vice versa. Capitol Racing, the new Les Bois Park management, plans full 10- and 11-race cards, with Idaho Cup Day on Saturday.

Idaho thoroughbreds take the stage in six Idaho Cup championship races that carry combined total purses of over $100,000. Who's coming? It's speculation until entry day-Wednesday, August 24-but I know of one thoroughbred who will be in the race and is ready to roll.

Bobbiblue Bayou, an 8-year-old gelding who has been a crowd favorite since he first hit the track, has won futurities and derbies and sprint handicaps, but has never won an Idaho Cup. The best he's done on Idaho Cup Day is second ... not too shabby, but no cigar. In the Idaho Cup Sprint in 2005, Bobbiblue Bayou gets another chance to bring home the cup.

He has an excellent shot this year having already won two races on the Oregon fair circuit, in Union and in Prineville. Owner/trainer Tawnja Elison has kept him in top shape for this sprint race. Elison has two others in the race, Quiet Syns and Shergar River Road, and the odds on this trio should be ultra-low. Dun Ringill and Purdee Purdee should round out the field, but if fewer than five horses enter the Sprint, the race will not be run. Scan the entries for all three days to look for Bobbiblue Bayou in a different race over the weekend if the Sprint doesn't go.

You might wonder why an owner/trainer would enter three horses in the same race. "I really want this year's Idaho Cup races to succeed," explains Elison. "It would be a shame if a great tradition like the Sprint didn't happen, so I wanted to offer as much support as I could." Elison is lending her support to other Cup races, too, with Blackjack Robber in the Idaho Cup Juvenile, and could have horses in still more races over the weekend.

In the Idaho Cup Juvenile, we might have co-champions this year. Usually, the 2-year-olds race in trial heats to set the final field, but with Les Bois Park closed this year, the trials were cancelled. If more than 10 horses enter the Juvenile, the race will be split into two races. Dangerously Dunn and Dancing Buckaroo have both raced and won this year. Dunn looks especially dangerous, having won his maiden race at Arapahoe Park, while Buckaroo danced to victory at Great Falls. Dancing Buckaroo is a full sister to Northern Buck, who finished second in the Idaho Cup Derby in 2004.

Others to consider in the Juvenile, based on breeding: Blackjack Robber, by Hey Rob, and Fortune Game, by Game Plan. And Sonofa Prince is out of Cheese Blintz, the mare who foaled the filly Cheese Puff.

Blue Julie should be a monster in the Idaho Cup Distaff Derby. Paradise Wild in the Idaho Cup Distaff Maturity. Poorboys Playboy and Valid Sex Appeal look competitive in the Idaho Cup Derby. And the Idaho Cup Classic is, as they say, "loaded." (Where's ESPN2 when you need them?) Silent Snow, last year's Derby winner, and Northern Buck, last year's Derby runner-up, face Crooked Key, who won this Classic race in 2004.

The three-day weekend kicks off Friday night with two stakes races: the Inaugural Handicap, for thoroughbreds at seven furlongs, and the Capitol Speed Handicap, for all breeds going 1,000 yards. Each purse should top $5,000.

The race of the day on Sunday is the $43,000 Capitol Futurity for 2-year-old quarter horses going 350 yards. Gigarad was the fastest qualifier, followed closely by Royal Time Dash, Cb Bullion, and Valentines Fame. All four covered the distance in less than 18 seconds, but High Country Snow, at 18.05 seconds, won his trial heat after he "hopped start." If he leaves the gate smoothly on Sunday, he could threaten the top four.

The racing community anxiously awaits the weekend. Capitol Racing, the Ada County commissioners and the board of the Western Idaho Fair have worked hard to make it happen.

The track surface is in superb condition, the weather should be perfect and now it's up to us-the fans. Show how much you love Idaho horses and horse racing in the Treasure Valley by coming down to the races.

Racing all weekend at Les Bois Park at the Western Idaho Fairgrounds, Friday, August 26, through Sunday, August 28. Post times are 4:30 on Friday and Saturday; 2:00 on Sunday