No one knew for sure how things would go for Fonner Park with the Grand Island track going head-to-head with some of the largest tracks in the nation on Memorial Day.
It turned out those big tracks dominated the attention of the bettors around the nation.
“Instead of being in the wake of Gulfstream, Churchill, Santa Anita and Golden Gate, we simply got swamped by them,” Fonner Park CEO Chris Kotulak said on a day when the backside of Fonner looked like a swamp because of all the rain that hit over the weekend. “At least the California tracks swamped us.”
Fonner’s all-sources handle was $779,170. That’s the first time since Fonner began Monday through Wednesday racing on March 23 that the handle didn’t reach $1 million.
One factor was the absence of coverage on TVG. The horse racing channel has focused on Fonner Park much of the time this spring, but not on Monday.
“We got no coverage on TVG today,” Kotulak said. “If we would have been given attention on TVG, it would have made a world of difference. We knew there was a chance that we might not get any attention and we sure didn’t.”
But the good news is Fonner will be all by itself on Tuesday. That should make for a good handle heading into the final day of racing on Wednesday.
“We will share our signal with no one on Tuesday,” Kotulak said. “Hopefully we’ll have some nice racing which will encourage people to come back for another go at it on Wednesday.”
Plus, Kotulak is expecting some pretty extensive coverage on TVG Tuesday.
“We are staffed with on-air personalities on TVG so we should be getting plenty of attention,” Kotulak said. “Sometimes TVG does not have a full complement of talent when we’re conducting our races. I contacted TVG and I know they will have someone commenting on our races all day.”
The Dinsdale Pick Five Jackpot will take a carryover of $96,059 into Tuesday’s racing. A big day would set the stage for another large mandatory payout on Wednesday.
Kotulak said it’s time for Fonner Park to wind up its live meet.
“Everything is grinding to a halt,” Kotulak said. “I’m sure many people, myself included, are looking for something new. I’m hoping for all the best for all the horsemen who were here, but now it’s time for them to move along and find another way to butter their bread.”
G G Holiday wins feature
G G Holiday, trained by Marvin Johnson, has been busy this racing season at Fonner Park.
Monday she had her seventh start of the season, all with jockey Chris Fackler aboard, and went wire to wire to win the Fonner feature, an allowance race for Nebraska-bred fillies and mares who have never won two races.
“I got together with Mr. Johnson early in the meet and got on her a few times,” Fackler said. “She was a little spunky in the mornings, but she eventually came around.”
G G Holiday showed she didn’t mind the muddy track at all, winning the six-furlong race by three lengths in 1:16.60.
“They’re like us,” Fackler said. “Some days they’re all full of energy and some days they’re kind of flat. You never know with horses because they can’t tell you.”
It was the second win in 10 career starts for owners Johnson and Seven Arms Stables. The win was worth $4,620 and brought the career earnings of the 4-year-old daughter of Graceful Glance and Silent Bluff to $11,730.
G G Holiday paid $9.40, $4.60 and $3.60. Gogetmbugs paid $4.60 and $3.20 while Bee Merry paid $3.40 to show.
Fackler said the important thing on a muddy track is for the horse to get its footing.
“The advantage really is just getting a hold of it (the track), and the horse hopefully doesn’t take a bad step and lose their footing,” Fackler said.
— Trainer Isai Gonzalez retook the lead for the trainer’s title with three wins. Jarred Journet rode Contraband to a victory in the first for Gonzalez while Freddy Manrrique rode Big Guy Ian to victory in the fourth. In the fifth, it was Jake Olesiak riding Top of the Page to a victory for Gonzalez.
— With two days of racing left, Gonzalez has 36 wins and Kelli Martinez 34. Gonzalez has three entered on Tuesday, including two in the same race, while Martinez has five. They both have three entered Wednesday, but again Gonzalez has two in the same race.
— Manrrique also won on Five Roses Luna for trainer Jim Cranwell in the third race.
— Leading jockey Armando Martinez won twice. First he rode Coil and Strike to a win in the second for trainer Larry Donlin, then Ameripoint for Mark Lemburg in the sixth.
— Fackler also won twice. In addition to the win in the seventh race, he won the eighth on Banker Nita for trainer Steve Hall.