A fresh start: A new manager comes to North Dakota Horse Park – InForum

FARGO — A new general manager from out of state, but with industry experience, takes the helm of North Dakota Horse Park, the Fargo-based racetrack.

Hugh Alan Drexler began working as general manager earlier this year after Horse Race North Dakota, the non-profit organization that runs the horse park and live races, opened a nationwide search for a new general manager. .

Horse Race North Dakota was awarded a matching grant of up to $80,000 over two years from the North Dakota Racing Commission in late 2021 in an effort to attract qualified applicants. The North Dakota Racing Commission is the racing regulator in the state and is responsible for licensing race officials and personnel, but it does not directly operate the state’s two individual tracks, North Dakota Horse Park and Chippewa Downs, in Belcourt, ND

“Hugh has an excellent reputation and is highly respected in the industry,” said Jack Schulz, executive director of the North Dakota Racing Commission. “The NDRC looks forward to a prosperous and exciting future for horse racing in Fargo under Hugh’s leadership.”

Live racing is scheduled to return to North Dakota Horse Park around July 2022. The state commission granted the Fargo track the ability to race for up to eight days, potentially four weekends. The dates of the meetings should be announced soon.

Until then, the challenge and opportunity of what the North Dakota Equestrian Park offers is what Drexler says drove him to apply for the job.

“It allows me to put all my experience and everything I’ve learned into one,” Drexler said. “I see the opportunity and the potential to really build something real here. Especially in this day and age where race tracks are looking for someone to help them improve the race, those opportunities to do that are rare in this industry. .”

Drexler grew up in the world of horse racing. While her father was a lifelong jockey who retired in 2004, her mother’s family planted racing roots by owning and training thoroughbred racehorses. Drexler’s family moved often following the racetracks, but eventually settled in the Phoenix area.

“So I come from a line of jockeys and trainers, but neither [professions] worked for me,” Drexler said.

Neither does owning or investing in racehorses.

Drexler said he dabbled in racehorse ownership. The last time was around 10 years ago, when a mare he and a partner briefly raced would make a name for herself as a high-stakes winner under various owners. Drexler took it as a sign that property might not be his calling.

“Yes, I never feel the need to own a horse again,” Drexler said, confirming he would avoid the potential conflict of interest at Fargo.

Although the Drexler family traveled often growing up, the Phoenix area would become their home base. There, Drexler completed the University of Arizona’s Racetrack Industry Program, the only horse racing industry studies degree offered in the United States.
He started his career on the front of Turf Paradise racetracks in Phoenix. There he worked in nearly every facet of track operations, from betting and simulcasting to promotions and networking.

Drexler then did a number of paddock hosting gigs, where he offered advice to potential bettors on race days. He was a trainee at the highly regarded Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, CA and as a Breeder’s Cup trainee at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky. Churchill Downs is home to the Kentucky Derby.

Drexler most recently served as race secretary for Jack Thistledown Racino in North Randall, Ohio. There he helped build what he called “arguably one of the strongest fields in third-grade Ohio Derby history.”

Although Drexler has experience in top-level thoroughbred racing, he is also familiar with American quarter horse racing. The two breeds both compete at racetracks in North Dakota. Thoroughbreds are known as long-distance runners, with sometimes long runs of a mile or more. Quarter horses are the sprinters, covering about 350 to 400 meters in less than 21 seconds.

Drexler said his experience doesn’t dictate preference when it comes to providing racing opportunities for either breed.

“When it comes to [the breeds] I am an equal opportunity employer,” Drexler said. “I show no preferential treatment for horses that race as long as they produce good product and races with fuller fields.”

While Drexler will strive to implement new plans and fair management as soon as possible, he recognizes that it may take more than one season to reach the finish line he is striving for. to reach.

“Hopefully after being here for a season people will see where we’re going and want to go, so maybe we can’t become a first track, but we can be something people look forward to every summer.”

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