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If you want to have fun at Prairie Meadows watching horse racing, just remember this:

“Prairie Meadows, third race, $2 to win, on No. 5.”

That’s it. Sit back, soak in the action, and win.

Well, almost.

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Whether you’re a long-time fan of horse racing or a newbie, who wouldn’t like the chance to wager a bit and cheer on the thoroughbred or quarter horse of your choice, beverage in hand and smile on your face? And… it’s free.

With thoroughbred racing season opening on April 28 at Prairie Meadows, horse racing fans are chomping at the bit to get back in the stands.

Since its inaugural season of live horseracing in 1989, Prairie Meadows has been a growing epicenter of entertainment. But for many, it’s the racing that remains the crown jewel.

John Hernandez, track handicapper, said Prairie Meadow’s 26-year history is long and storied, as is the sport itself.

2015 TB 8 copy

The 2016 horse racing season at Prairie Meadows begins on April 28.

“The sport of horse racing has a long history of capturing the attention of sports fans in America,” Hernandez said. “At one time, it was ‘the only game in town,’ and many of today’s fans remember attending the races as children with their parents. It’s a fun sport to watch ‘up close and personal,’ and it gives fans not only the opportunity to experience the pageantry of the sport, but a chance to win some money if they bet on the winning horses.”

For the uninitiated who haven’t been to the track, however, don’t be intimidated — betting on a horse is easy and fun.

First, pick up one of the live racing programs, which will have everything you’ll need to know about the horses. Before making a bet, you need to know the three basic wagers that you can make: win, place, and show.  To win, your horse must finish first. To place, your horse must finish first or second. To show, your horse must finish first, second or third. Now it’s time to place a bet. First, go to a mutuel window or wagering kiosk and state the name of the track, the race number you’re betting on, how much you want to bet, the type of wager you want to make, and then say the number of the horse. The thoroughbred races start at 5:30 p.m. on Thursdays and Fridays and 1 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. On a typical night, there are anywhere from nine to 10 races. A nine-race program typically lasts about four hours. Thoroughbred racing season runs April 28 – Aug. 13, while quarter horse season is Aug. 20 – Oct. 15.

But is the racetrack somewhere you can take your family? Absolutely, said Hernandez. Children younger than 18 are welcome if accompanied by an adult. On Family Day At the Race events (May 22, June 19, July 24, Aug. 21, Sept. 18 and Oct. 9), various children’s activities will be available such as spin art, balloon animals, princess party appearances and more. Special race days and other events are also big draws.

“Some of our bigger events are the Kentucky Derby, where we have a hat contest with a grand prize of $300, our Independence Day fireworks, camel/zebra/ostrich races, and Family Days,” said Hernandez. “This year, we are also adding a food truck festival on June 18.  Families are welcome to all of our live racing events.” CV


Prairie Meadows Racetrack

1 Prairie Meadows Drive, Altoona

Opening day: April 28

Thursday and Friday post time: 5:30 p.m.

Saturday and Sunday post time: 1 p.m.


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