Utah Horse Racing
A History of Horse Racing in Utah
By Steve Luhm
The Salt Lake Tribune
Salt Lake Tribune
Horse racing and pari-mutuel
wagering have a long history in Utah.
In July 1897, daily races were held at Calder's Park as part of the first
Utah Pioneer Jubilee, which commemorated the 50th anniversary of the arrival of
the Mormon settlers.
The state banned pari-mutuel wagering in 1913, but it was reintroduced 12
years later after a bill sponsored by Rep. Charles Redd was passed by the state
On July 2, 1925, an estimated crowd of 10,000 attended the return of
pari-mutuel racing at the Utah State Fairgrounds. Among those present were Gov.
George Dern and LDS Church president Heber J. Grant.
Two years later, however, pari-mutuel wagering was banned again after
allegations of corruption within the state racing commission eroded support in
the legislature, within the LDS Church and among prominent businessmen.
In 1927 - the same year a young jockey named Johnny Longden won the first
race of his Hall of Fame career aboard a horse named Hugo K. Asher at the
fairgrounds - pari-mutuel wagering was banned again.
A well-organized, well-financed effort managed to get the pari-mutuel issue
on the ballot in 1992, and early polls indicated the measure had a good chance
of passing. After late opposition to the referendum by the LDS Church, however,
it was easily defeated.
It is unlikely pari-mutuel racing will ever return to Utah.
As recently as April 2005, LDS Church president Gordon Hinckley spoke out
"It becomes addictive," Hinckley said. "In so many cases it leads to other destructive habits and behavior."
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