Duayne Didericksen has returned to Les Bois Park after more than a decade's absence to help put the venue that gave him his start back on track. The former Les Bois jockey, trainer and racing secretary has taken the reins of the race track, which kicks off 31 days of thoroughbred racing on Wednesday, May 1, running through Saturday, Aug. 10.
"If this wasn't special to me, I wouldn't be here," Didericksen said. "The owners just want to break even, and pour the profits back into the business. They want to create jobs and save a good industry."
Owners said Les Bois should generate more than 200 full- and part-time jobs during the next four months, with live meets and simulcast wagering pushing approximately $32 million into the local economic engine per year.
"All the people that are in this now are long-term Idahoans," said Larry Williams.
Williams was part of a successful effort to bring life back to Les Bois in 2011, after the track sat empty for two years. Along with industry insiders Harry Bettis, James Grigsby and Linda Yanke, Williams created Treasure Valley Racing two years ago, partnering with an Alabama group to kick-start the race track operation with a limited 2011 schedule. TVR ultimately bought out its Alabama partners, making 2012 its first 100 percent local season, paying out an average $56,000 per race day.
"[The local owners] have a vested interest in not only the horses, but the people," said Williams.
Les Bois owners said they were bringing back "theme days" in 2013, beginning with Derby Day, Saturday, May 4--running concurrently with the 139th Kentucky Derby. As a feather in their Derby bonnets, local owners added that Les Bois veteran Gary Stevens (he began racing at Les Bois in 1979) will come out of retirement to ride at the Saturday, May 4 Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs. Stevens, 50, has won the Derby on three occasions before becoming a film actor (Seabiscuit) and television analyst for NBC Sports.
"Gary Stevens hasn't forgotten where he came from," said Didericksen. "He always gives Boise a big hug."
Officials were quick to add that a newer breed of jockey, similar to Nikeela Black, featured as this week's Boise Weekly Citizen (see Page 9), are an important element for the track's success.
"New jockeys are always important. They're like getting a new ball player," said Didericksen, who added that fans would see some new faces from Canada and Mexico as well.
"We have a great partnership with the new owners, but we also want to stay out of the way," said Jim Tibbs, a member of the Ada County Board of Commissioners, which acts as TVR's landlord. "We want the owners to be as successful as they can be."
Expecting to host more than 120,000 patrons and 800 horses through the season, Les Bois expanded its seating capacity to include new trackside patio seating.
Diderickson, who worked in various capacities at the track from 1975-2003, said he witnessed Les Bois "during good times and bad."
"But with the commitment I've seen from ownership ... I see big things," he said.