Horses are intricately woven into Montana’s heritage. They were a means of travel for the First Peoples, pioneers, and homesteaders. Montana’s first farms and ranches were made possible by horsepower. To this day, horses serve Montanans in both work and pleasure, with rodeos and races providing some of the most fast-paced entertainment in the state.
“Horse racing in Montana goes back over 100 years,” explains Sparky Kottke of the Great Falls Turf Club.
Since 2011, he and other members of the club have worked to improve and promote the horse racing facility in Great Falls. At that time, the board of horse racing was $600,000 in debt and there hadn’t been a race all year. (That debt was paid off in 2020.)
“There used to be fifteen to twenty tracks in Montana. If Great Falls was gone, Miles City would be the last one,” Kottke explains.
Fighting to keep horse racing alive in their community, the Great Falls Turf Club spent the next two years revitalizing the track. That first race of 2013 made it all worth it.
“The horses were neck and neck. The fans went crazy!” Kottke remembers. “Right there, I knew it was worth the work we put into it.”
Since then, the sport has continued to thrive. Kottke credits the support of the County Commissioners, ExpoPark Staff, Cascade Public Services, horsemen, jockeys, sponsors, and fans, as well as the good conditions of the facility. But a lot of it comes down to the horses. The excitement of hooves thundering down the track just can’t be beat.