SPRINGFIELD, ILL. – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich, his wife Patti and two daughters, Amy and Annie, tonight kicked off the Illinois State Fair’s first ever evening of harness races.
“The Illinois State Fair has a rich history of harness racing dating back to its beginnings,” Governor Blagojevich said. “Top drivers and horses from around the country come to the fair every year to compete on the world’s fastest mile track. Now, with evening races, we can add a new chapter to that longstanding tradition.”
The Governor presented the winner of the first race a ceremonial blanket commemorating the horse’s victory in the first evening race in Illinois State Fair history. Fair officials scheduled two evenings of horse races this year to add more variety to the Grandstand entertainment line-up and offer additional fairgoers an opportunity to watch the sport.
Harness racing has been one of the fair’s most popular attractions, but the noon post time used exclusively in years past was somewhat inconvenient for many. This year, for the first time ever, the races tonight and Tuesday, Aug. 17, start at 4:30 p.m., giving fairgoers who cannot get away from work during the day a chance to spend an evening at the racetrack.
“Illinois has a strong horse industry that is deserving of the attention these evening races will bring,” Agriculture Director Chuck Hartke said. “Few may realize it, but Illinois has the fifth largest horse population in the United States and the industry employs nearly 50,000 people.”
Monday’s racing card featured three Grand Circuit races. Two and three-year-old trotters and pacers competed for $115,000 in prize money. Four other races with combined purses of $30,000 were also scheduled. They include two Illinois State Fair Colt Stakes races and two Illinois Topline Races.
Tuesday evening, the running of the prestigious $85,000 Greyhound for two-year-old trotters highlights the race card. Harness racing will continue Aug. 18 and Aug. 19. Featured races include the Alexander trot for three-year-olds Wednesday and the culmination of the Illinois State Fair Colt Stakes Championships Thursday. Post time both days is noon to allow for evening entertainment at the Grandstand.
Admission to all Illinois State Fair harness races, including the two evening sessions, is free. Pari-mutuel wagering will be offered during the evening races as well.
Results of Monday evening’s harness races and a summary of Monday’s fair highlights can be found on the Illinois State Fair website, www.illinoisstatefair.info