LIMA — It used to be quite often that someone could go to a county fair and always find a good seat in the grandstands if you wanted to watch harness racing.
Dennis Fricke glanced at the crowd as races were about to begin at 7 p.m. Wednesday and nodded his head approvingly as the grand stands were about three-quarters of the way full.
If you wanted a good seat, you better have showed up a little early.
Fricke is a member of the Allen County fair board. However, he also doubles as the president of the Western Ohio Colt Racing Association, the entity that annually sanctions harness racing in a 10-county area in West Central Ohio, including Allen County. The sport has seen its ups and downs through time, just like with any sport, but it is definitely making a comeback.
“There is a definite resurgence in harness racing,” Fricke said. “People are coming out more and more to watch. I think the numbers are going to explode over the next year or two.”
The WOCRA sanctions races with two-year-old and three-year-old fillies and colts in both trotter and pacer divisions.
Fricke said the sport is gaining popularity because you can watch, and by wagering money on a horse to “win, place or show,” you can be involved.
“It makes you part of the race,” Fricke said. “Also, everybody loves horses.”
Speed Hanover, ridden by Larry Farley of Berkey, took the signature event, the Allen County Super Trot, by a narrow margin in the final race Wednesday. Other Wednesday winners included Senator Sam, Final Retrieve, Carolina Charm, Playa Del Sol, Crowned With Glory and Jumpin Jack K. On Tuesday, local rider Roy Burns saw harness racing turn into a family affair as he took home one win, along with his 18-year-old daughter, Kacey Burns.
Burns has been a mainstay for four years in the area in harness racing, and is glad to see one his four children take an interest in racing.
“Controlling the horse on a harness is a little different than riding on the back of one,” Kacey said, “but this is a lot more fun. You are racing at county fairs and you make a lot of friends and get to know the other riders.”
Tuesday winners were She Gone, Awsone Dunn, Bid Bad Blue, Heza Home Run, Bubba Delight, We Got The Chips, Clarksville Boy, I’m Feelin Fine, Master’s Sweetie, Cylater and Chip Chompin Champ.
Reach Lance Mihm at 567-242-0409 or at Twitter@LanceMihm