“It's financial – that's the bottom line,” said Tamara K. Dargavel, president of the San Miguel Horse Racing Association.
The association has built up the two-day horse races since their conception in March 1986. But for the past five years, sponsorship has dwindled and the board has struggled to collect enough purse money to continue.
The association currently is soliciting individuals willing to put together a team to pursue money for advertising and sponsorship. If people don't come forward by April 1, the association will be faced with potentially canceling the annual event, Dargavel said.
Racers compete at the Norwood bush track not only to train and ready their horses for larger events, but also compete for a purse – the money awarded to the winner of each individual race. (Bush track races are unsanctioned races involving quarter horses and amateur jockies.)
“The association last year paid for two-thirds of that purse money,” Dargavel said. “That's why we may have the races shut down this year.”
There are approximately seven races each day with purses of $500 for each race and a $1,000 purse for the featured race.
A lot of costs accumulate to organize and host the early-June event, which is the first bush track race on a circuit that includes Montrose, Ridgway and Gunnison.
To put on the races, the association rents the fairgrounds from San Miguel County and acquires insurance, Dargavel said. Expenses also include a liquor license, alcohol purchases, trophies, programs, printing, and advertising.
Further, the association has had extra costs associated with starting gate repairs, upkeep on its booth, and providing a $200 annual scholarship, which last year was bumped to $500. The association donates to the Lion's Club for its contribution of volunteers at the event, as well.
Dargavel said she hopes the association's show of goodwill over the years – including helping both Ridgway and Montrose get their racing events back on track – might be returned so that the Norwood races can continue. The event brings in about 300 people a day to the fairgrounds and a majority of the racers come from out of town.
“I believe horsemen bring their money there. I know I leave a fair percentage of my money there,” trainer Randy Alire said, who lives in Clifton but races in Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico and Utah.
Alire's horses have been racing in Norwood event almost as long as the horse races have been going. He starts his younger horse there to get experience and races his older horses in the featured races. The event also provides an opportunity for Alire's grandchildren to race, since bush tracks don't require the same licensing, he said.
“Our friends come from all over,” Alire said. “They're family-orientated horse races.”
For more information on how to support Norwood’s horse races, contact the association at 970/428-4100.