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Horse racing's future in Arizona remains uncertain

The sport of horse racing in Arizona is facing uncertainty as race tracks encounter financial difficulties. Thousands of workers in the industry are being affected.

The future of horse racing in Arizona is up in the air — multiple race tracks across the Valley are struggling financially. The uncertainty of when and where to hold races has affected thousands of workers in the horse racing industry. The Arizona Thoroughbred Breeders Sale at Horseshoe Park & Equestrian Centre is a glimpse into what the future might hold.

The goal of the auction in late October was to preserve the sport of horse racing in the Valley.

Several racing tracks in Arizona, like Turf Paradise and Arizona Downs, have gone through various highs and lows over the last few years — and mostly lows. Financial issues, ownership changes and developers backing out of deals. Thoroughbred trainer Stacy Campo is uneasy about instability in a sport that she’s made her livelihood. She’s been at it since she was 8 years old.

"The uncertainty, the, you know, the fear of something collapsing in front of us is on our minds every single day, especially when we get up in the morning at five o'clock to feed the horses in our backyard," Campo said. "Wondering, you know, when are we going to race?"

Those local race tracks are expecting to resume horse racing in 2024. Stacy says that’s thanks in large part to the Arizona Thoroughbred Breeders Sale.

"When we have a sale like this and we've got breeders out here and we've got people that are determined to keep it alive and we've got, you know, people who have tracks that are willing to negotiate, to find a way to be able to run, they're gonna do it and, and we're gonna help them," Campo said.

The goal of the Arizona Thoroughbred Breeders Sale is to supply “stock” for its members. Horses are put up for auction — obviously, to provide buyers with potential racers down the line. The auction also serves as a fundraiser to help bring the sport back to life.

Organized horse racing has been a staple in the U.S. dating back to the 18th century. It’s also one of the only sports that truly captures Arizona’s old Western roots that run deep among members of the horse racing community. That bond not only motivates them to keep the sport alive now, though.

Farm owner and thoroughbred breeder Tosch Keshian intends to keep the sport going for future generations.

"The people are willing to go to work every morning at 5 and 6 or 4 o’clock to make sure the horse is taken care of, because it’s their pride. I’m optimistic that things will work out but you have to have a storm every once in a while to kind of clean out the chaff, to bring back the green," Keshian said.

The past few years have been tough for the horse racing industry. Still, the community is keeping its spirits high heading into 2024, when they’ll once again open the starting gates.

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