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'A Night At The Races' Brings Derby Excitement to Hamilton on Saturday

Friends of the Miles River Middle School and Hamilton-Wenham Regional High School will put on simulated horse races as a fundraiser on the night of the Kentucky Derby.

Start sipping on your mint juleps and find your most lavish hat to celebrate at the "A Night At The Races" fundraiser put on by the Friends of the and .

On Saturday, the day of the Kentucky Derby, the Friends will host 12 races of its own, where bettors can wager on simulated races. There will also be Southern fare, a cash bar and about 10 items to bid on.

Searching for a different fundraising idea, co-chairwoman Weezie Howley learned of A Night At The Races from her sisters-in-law in New Jersey and a woman who put it on at a charter school in Newburyport.

A Florida company sends the already-run races on a DVD. The company adds in the commentary and all viewers have to do it bet on a horse.

Howley explained that the seen-that-done-that auctions - where many feel compelled to go but then can’t afford to bid on items or those who donated the items end up with the winning bid - were getting stale and it was time for something new and exciting.

“We were asking the same people to donate things and the same people ended up buying them. Moms were dragging dads to these events,” said Howley, who has seen her share of fundraisers with three children in fourth, fifth and seventh grade.

The event hasn’t even happened but the Friends feel they have already won the Triple Crown.

Ten businesses -  Quiznos, Guerrilla Billboards, Bank Gloucester, Evan’s Construction, J.P. Morgan Securities, Wags Doggie Day Care, of Hamilton, , The Vanier Family, Hogan Tire, Property Works, and Ideasicyle – ponied up $250 each to sponsor a race. And all 120 horses have been sponsored by a family or businesses. They were even allowed to name the entry, with names like Hoofless Joe Jackson, NERDZ and California Dreamer.

“Before anyone walks in the door we already raised $9,000,” said Howley.

The event, which is for adults only, will be held at the . Doors open at 7 p.m. and the first race goes off at 7:30 p.m. Admission, which includes food, is $25 per couple, and race betting is $5.

The purse for each race will be split 50-50 among the winners and the Friends, which helps pay for enrichment programs at the schools and offset costs for students to play sports or be in clubs.

There is also a contest with prizes for the best hat.

Howley said she has heard talk around town and believes a good-sized crowd will show up for the inaugural event.

“The group organizing this thought … if we get 100 people (on Saturday) we’d be happy,” she said. “We think we will get more than that. There is a big buzz growing. We haven’t sold a lot of tickets yet, but we hear we will sell a lot at the door. I wouldn’t be surprised if we get 150 (people).”

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