Final Two Live Racing Days at Fonner Park - by Steve Anderson
The curtain comes down this weekend as live thoroughbred horse racing draws to
a close at Fonner Park in Grand Island. Friday's ten race card sets sail at 3:00pm with
a 1:30pm start scheduled on Kentucky Derby Day, Saturday May 3rd.
The atmosphere should be electric on closing day. Not only can you watch and wager
on the 140th edition of the "Run for the Roses", but experience the pomp and circumstance
of the greatest two minutes in sports, as well. "Live" Dixieland Music will set the tone
as fans can sip their favorite beverage from Official Kentucky Derby Souvenir Glasses.
Eleven races, including the 31st running of the $25.000 Al Swihart Memorial, will
highlight Fonner's local "swan song". The Swihart, a six-and-a-half furlong sprint for older
fillies and mares, drew 17 nominations, including this year's winner of the Orphan Kist,
Spice Swirl, and Lady Commander, who took down the Runza for trainer Temple
Rushton just two weeks ago.
Top ship-ins for the Swihart could include Jim Meyaard's Lillie Abbie, a six-year-old
Texas-bred mare who registered a couple of second place performances earlier this year
at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Arkansas; both coming in lower-level claiming events.
Meyaard has won two of the last three Swihart's with Lil Missknowitall and Alywyn.
Another outstate trainer, Charles Smith, has nominated Portales, winner of last year's
Pepsi Stakes at Fonner. Smith, a Dallas prosecuting attorney during the off-season, has
two Swihart winners on his resume, taking the 2012 edition with Ruby's Big Band and
Miss Missile matched that feat in 2009.
Seventeen nominations were also received for the $10,000 Coors Starter Allowance,
contested at a mile an eighth. Fonner's longest race for the entire meet lured such
local favorites as Hi Prim, Tenth Power and Nick A Jack. To qualify for this race, horses
had to run for a claiming price of $5,000 or less dating back to the start of 2013.
A "Spring Dazzle" Craft and Vendor Event will take up shop on the main concourse
during closing day festivities and the Swine Barn will host another Roller Derby bout,
Saturday evening, as the Platte-Valley Roller Vixens take on the Bruizin Bettys at 7:30pm.