Reporting Rob Johnson
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MELROSE PARK, Ill. (CBS) — It’s a sport that has no off-season.
Nearly every Thursday and Friday, every week of the year – since 1946, in fact — there has been harness racing at Maywood Park, a one half-mile standard-bred race track.
It is a way of life for many horse owners like Bernie and Deb Paul, who make the weekly commute here from their farm in Oregon, Ill.
“It’s a very hands-on business from an owner’s perspective,” Bernie Paul says. “At our farm I can jump on and sit behind a horse and go four jog miles with them, and so you feel like you are actually involved in getting the horse ready to go.”
Kelly is standard-bred horse, one of 28 the Pauls own. She’s rehabbing an injury right now, but when she’s racing she competes for a slice of a $4,000 purse for each of the roughly 14 races every night. There are eight horses per race.
“They have to want to be a race horse and want to beat somebody,” Bernie says.
Owner Rick Kuhlmey says people unfamiliar with harness racing may have a perception that the races are fixed. He says it’s actually a highly regulated field.
Kuhlmey started off as a paying customer in 1986, and grew to love the sport so much he now owns three horses, which he stables at the Paul farm.
The thrill of winning is particularly sweet, he says.
“Getting to the winner’s circle and standing in that winner’s circle for that 15 seconds of fame is just phenomenal,” Kuhlmey says.
Although Maywood Park has racing just two days a week, it is open every day of the week for simulcasts of other horse races around the nation.