Welcome

Thank you for visiting paducahsun.com, the online home of The Paducah Sun.

Calendar
June 2012
S M T W T F S
27 28 29 30 31 01 02

Click here to submit an event.

Harness racing endures at Downs

BY LAUREL BLACKlblack@paducahsun.com

Billy Perkins remembers a time when harness racers balked at wearing safety glasses and hard helmets. The two wheels on their sulkies had to be oiled so they didn't squeak. Injuries were common, and deaths weren't unheard of.

The sport is safer and quieter today than it was when Perkins, 68, first started announcing harness races 50 years ago. Originally from Pennsylvania, where his family owned a horse and dairy farm, Perkins said he was born into the horse business.  

"It's probably all I ever knew," said Perkins, who also has experience as a race secretary. "There have really been some good times."

 But not all the changes he has seen have been positive. These days, there are more ways to race - and to gamble - than ever before.

"Kids used to know about horses," he said. "(But) NASCAR has done a great job, and now we have a lot of competition with the casinos."

Still, the sport endures.

A handful of drivers - there are no jockeys in harness racing, Perkins explained - milled near the five-eighths-mile race track at Bluegrass Downs on Friday. Their goal was to meet the qualifying time to start racing next week: 2 minutes and 8 seconds per mile for pacers, and 2 minutes and 6 seconds for trotters.

LK Cooper, a 30-year-old driver from Terry, Mississippi, numbered among those who qualified Friday. Like Perkins, he inherited his passion: His father, Lawrence, got him into harness racing 12 years ago. The family owns a farm and a track, Cooper Downs, in their hometown. Before coming to Bluegrass Downs, he was at Thunder Ridge in Prestonburg.

After the five-week season ends here, he'll continue to The Red Mile in Lexington.  

Before a race, "I sit down, clear my mind. I don't eat, I don't drink, I just think about racing," Cooper said.

It's a lot like driving a car, he said, except there are more wrecks. Cooper's sustained a few injuries, including a shattered shoulder, but nothing stops him from racing.

"When it rains, it's terrible. You can't see. But I love doing it, so I've got to get out there and do it," he said. "My kids are going to do it. I hope they do, anyway."

How long does he plan on racing?

"Till I die," he said.

Live harness racing starts next Friday at Bluegrass Downs, 150 Downs Drive, and runs for five weeks. The races begin at 1 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday. For more information, call 270-444-7117.

Contact Laurel Black, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8641, or follow @LaurelFBlack on Twitter.

Comments made about this article - 0 Total

Comment on this article

Your comment has been submitted for approval
captcha 3d0b76737e6842419f3e8d1b0ae92dd0
Top Classifieds
  • AKC Shih-Tzu Vet checked, $600 731-3 ... Details
  • Museum Quality Ornate Antique Furnitu ... Details
  • PILLOW TOPmattress sets NEW in plasti ... Details
  • CHARLES SMITH CONCRETE REPAIR &RE ... Details
  • Cash for Farms (270)339-8680 Details
  • Bedroom Suites New in Boxes. 6pc. che ... Details
  • Seasoned Firewood. 270-243-5815 Details
  • 5 Broiler Houses80 acres irrigated pa ... Details
  • SEEING is believing! Don't b ... Details
  • Owner Financing, new 3000sq ft,in Mar ... Details
  • 375 Acre Farm in Ballard County D ... Details
  • FHA, USDA, VA & Conventional Loan ... Details
  • Hyundai Accent '02 $1,800 97 ... Details
  • 05 CHEVY MALIBU $2500(270) 388-5983 Details
  • '06 Lincoln Truck One of the ... Details

Most Popular
  1. Student helps further bullying bill
  2. Vikings clip Falcon wings on road
  3. Last Oregon occupiers surrender
  1. Community looks for missing woman
  2. 'Leader in Me' making positive impact at local middle schools
  3. Bevin, Beshear begin to battle on health care
  1. Student helps further bullying bill
  2. Vikings clip Falcon wings on road
  3. Last Oregon occupiers surrender
Discussion

Check out these recently discussed stories and voice your opinion...