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Horse racing to live on in Arizona

Posted at 10:14 PM, Aug 09, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-10 01:14:00-04

Recent talk had the horse racing community shaken up, as the subject of the discussion was the future of horse racing not continuing in Arizona. However, a report issued on Wednesday by the Arizona Department of Gaming/Racing Division says that's not the case. 

According to the report,

  • There are no plans to shut down racing in Arizona in the coming fiscal year;
  • The Division is financially sound;
  • The Division has no plans to request additional appropriations

The initial talk though had Jim Lewis's mind racing. He sits on the Santa Cruz County Fair and Rodeo Association's Board of Directors, and helps put on the annual Sonoita Races. It's a more than century-old horse race that's had it's fair share of scares recently.

"It just doesn't seem to end, does it," Lewis said.

This past year, the race was almost cancelled because of the Sawmill Fire. But rather than missing it's 102nd year, they managed to put them on safely as the fire was nearly 100% contained.

Now, after the report that all is well with the State Racing Division, Lewis can breathe easy for year 103 at least, while expecting the state will come through in the years to come.

"By law, we have to have regulators," Lewis said. "We have to have those people that are overseeing what we are doing."

Overseeing what they're doing when it comes to finances and betting, that is. Not necessarily the racing, however. If things were to change, Lewis says they'd still race, even if there was no betting. They'd find a way to make the tradition live on.

"We'll just go back to the way it was," he said. "Having fun and seeing who has the fastest horse."

Lewis does want the race to continue to be traditional, betting and all, as he believes it helps strengthen the local economy.

"Little places like this thrive on horse racing," Lewis said. "This is a big part of this town, a lot of money comes back in here, and we definitely can use it."

At the end of the day, the big reason why Lewis wants the tradition to live on? 

"My great grandfather started the horse racing here," he said. "So, I'd love to keep the tradition going in some way, shape, or form."