Riding the wave of an unpreceded 2020 extended season of Thoroughbred horseracing, Fonner Park concluded the 2021 season with over $4.65 million in on-track mutuel handle. Comparing numbers to 2019, rather than the 2020 season (when Fonner Park was closed to the public after the first four weeks due to the pandemic), Fonner was up 19% in parimutuel handle of Fonner Park guests betting on Fonner Park races. The handle for out-of-state wagers on Fonner Park in 2021 was roughly $15.5 million, an increase of 447% compared to $2.8 million in 2019. The overall national horseracing industry handle was up approximately 12% for March and April, but Fonner Park was up 19% on-track.
“This year I spent extra on marketing to the horseplayers across the nation who got exposed to Fonner Park last year during the pandemic. I wanted to remind them that we were back and still a good bet,” said Fonner Park CEO Chris Kotulak. “In 2021 average field size bumped to 7.9 from 7.3 in 2020 and large fields are always a draw to the bettor regardless of quality.”
Sleepy Eyes Todd went on to win three stakes races after his 2020 Bosselman/Gus Fonner Stakes win. Remarkably, he returned to defend his title off three multi-million-dollar, G1 races in three previous months. As a 2-5 favorite, he was beaten by 9-2 second-choice Mo Mosa, ridden by Armando Martinez and trained by Michael Maker. Mo Mosa was named 2021 Horse of the Meet and First Alternate was the unanimous choice for Champion Older Filly or Mare after winning three stakes races in as many starts for trainer Stetson Mitchell. “She’s a blessing to me and my family and the special kind of horse horsemen pray for,” said Stetson Mitchell.
By winning the final race of the year, Jake Olesiak won his sixth title as Champion Jockey, with a total of 46 wins, one more win than Armando Martinez. David C. Anderson won his 15th Champion Trainer award at Fonner Park with 36 wins from 169 starts. D and L Farms (Darcy and Lee Burghardt) won 15 races from 39 starts and earned Leading Owner honors. And the 2021 Feat of the Meet award was voted as Fonner Park’s presence on the national stage with 2021 export handle five-times greater than 2019.
“I am convinced that the success and future of Fonner Park is directly attributed to our passionate community of staff, horsemen and race fans. Without our strong community support we could not survive,” Kotulak remarked.