The size of the prize “purses” for horse racing at Prairie Meadows race track in Altoona is likely to be a flash point during Thursday’s gambling debate in the Iowa House. Representative Tom Sands, a republican from Columbus Junction, is pushing a proposal that would increase the payouts for Iowa-bred and Iowa-raised horses. Sands says increasing the prizes for Iowa horse owners and horse breeders will boost the horse industry in the state. Sands says others in Iowa agriculture benefit, too, because horses eat grain and hay, plus it takes an awful lot of straw to fill a horse’s stall. Sands, by the way, is quite familiar with the horse industry. In the 1970s, Sands owned, trained and raced “standard bred” horses — those are the horses that pull a cart in so-called “harness racing.” Sands’ great-grandfather bought his first race horse in the late 1940s, and Sands has cousins and a great uncle who still own, race and train horses. Under the plan Sands is pushing, no less than 20 percent of the purse money at Prairie Meadows would be reserved for Iowa-bred horses. Currently, horse owners negotiate an annual deal with Prairie Meadows on the size of purses for Iowa-bred race horses.
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