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Fun to Have Fonner Park, Will Rogers Downs in Racing Spotlight

by Jerry Shottenkirk

April 4, 2020

The spring winds of Grand Island whistled up and down Pleasant View Drive in April ’75 as a 15-year-old and his banana-seated Huffy cut through the tremendous wind gusts or flew with the help of tail winds, depending on if they came from Canada or Mexico. The completion of the afternoon paper delivery of the Grand Island Independent newspaper turned into a trek down the road that today still leads into the parking lot at Fonner Park.

I went to work for that newspaper and ultimately covered the races. Currently, the racing world gets to take a look at the five-eighths oval that has been a fixture in the southeast corner of the city of 50,000 since 1954. About three decades after those bike rides to late-afternoon Thoroughbred glory, I was turf writer for The Oklahoman and made some trips to and covered Will Rogers Downs. It became a big part of the Oklahoma racing scene and currently has attracted horses from Oaklawn and tracks in Louisiana.

Fonner and Will Rogers also race on Wednesday, but Tampa Bay Downs joins the fray and kicks off the day’s action.
Fonner and Will Rogers provide the racing entertainment on Monday and Tuesday, and it’s time to revisit each with a few spot plays. You CAN go home again, especially when they are the only games in ‘town’.


Fonner Park Race 4: #5 In Control (12-1)
When you get to the $2,500 claiming level, you’ll often find aged performers that have seen better days. In Control is a good example. Hasn’t done much in three Fonner starts but turns back to four furlongs after showing speed going six furlongs. Jockey Erik McNeil has done a good job occasionally bringing home a hefty-priced winner. In Control is 9 years old and has a 9 of 54 record. The one-turn sprint here could be right in his wheelhouse.

Will Rogers Downs Race 9: #4 She’s Shiney (10-1)
Oklahoma-bred distaffers get the spotlight in the $50,000 Wilma Mankiller Stakes at six furlongs, and it helps to have some quality starts over the Will Rogers track.
She’s Shiney makes her 1st start of the year after good 2019 campaign that included a win in the Cinema Handicap at Will Rogers. She has also won stakes at Remington Park and Fair Meadows is capable of a big effort in her initial try off the bench.


Fonner Park Race 3: #6 Ye Be Judged (6-1)
The Baxter Stakes has been on the docket for decades, and today’s six-furlong sprint looks wide open. Ye Be Judged has been a local all the way and has two four-furlong races to his credit. He was an easy winner in quick time and the Nebraska-bred should be a legit danger on the front end against open company.

Will Rogers Downs Race 9: #1 Minister of Soul
Minister of Soul has developed into one of the better sprinters in the Southwest part of the country and has been a getting nothing but better. He comes in from Turf Paradise, where he was 2nd in the Phoenix Gold Cup and followed with an allowance win. His recent workouts over the Turf Paradise strip have been eye-catching, including a six-furlong work in 1:09 2-5, and five eighths in :57 3-5 and 57-4 (twice).