Paramutual horse racing adds excitement to summer

Feeling lucky are you? Perhaps today’s a day you should be at the track. And, it will be open today and Sunday – for the next three weekends as well.

Chippewa Downs, located at Belcourt, a paramutal horse racing track since 1991, has grown to be one of the finest tourist attractions in the region. It’s fun, it’s colorful and the action is fast.

“We’ll have thoroughbreds and quarter horses, some of the fastest horses in the region will be at these races, “ promised Doug DeMontigny, chairman of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Outdoor Recreation Development Association, in a recent article.

Post time for the first race today is 1:30 p.m. with several special events planned throughout the rest of the month. Memorial races are planned, including one to honor Colt Allery, a local law enforcement officer shot and killed while on duty two years ago. A large contingent of law enforcement is expected to turn out for that event June 15-16.

A memorial to Allery is so appropriate. Allery, 29, of St. John, was a deputy for the Rolette County Sheriff’s Office. He was killed while attempting to arrest the driver of a stolen pickup truck Jan. 18, 2017, near Belcourt. Sen. John Hoeven and then-Sen. Heidi Heitkamp both honored Allery on the floor of the Senate, noting to all the sacrifice Deputy Allery made for his community.

The final weekend of racing, June 29-30, is also very appropriate. It is a traditional race, an Indian Relay, in which bareback riders wearing traditional dress will compete for a $25,000 purse. The relay uses three horses per rider who must transfer from one horse to another after each lap around the track.

These riders practice for months to get the transfers done just right. Still, the outcome can be complicated, even comical if nobody gets hurt.

Again, this is a traditional and very significant custom being kept alive and practiced publicly. The skill and horsemanship required is impressive. We applaud its inclusion in June’s lineup. Enjoy.

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