It seems that there has been more bad news for the Saskatoon horse racing community after recent information saw the Prairieland Park’s management assessing the future of Marquis Down race track. Reports suggest that the park is considering permanently closing down the live harness track and replace it with a football stadium.
This has come as a big hit for many horse people and fans of the industry since not long ago, the Prairieland Park announced that there will be no upcoming live harness competitions at the venue for the current season. The park’s decision to replace the horse racing venue has been the target of public outrage since it employs over 500 individuals.
”A Real Gut Punch”
The latest news of replacing Marquis Downs with a football or soccer stadium has left many of the horse racing industry disappointed with the Prairieland Park’s administration. Trainer at the facility Anita Gardipy expressed her discontent with the decision by stating that is a “real gut punch” for the industry. She stated that despite her family training horses at the venue for centuries, she does not have resentment towards the part, but in her words, the management did not do enough to keep the track running.
President of the park Mark Regier defended the decision by claiming that the obstacles and circumstances have become too difficult to deal with. In his words, the unprecedented situation has a big part in it, since many of the track’s jockeys are from the Caribbean and cannot travel due to the many restrictions. Additionally, the lack of funds is another one of the reasons that the track will be permanently closing down.
Recently, Prairieland Park informed the public that it is currently in talks with the Canadian Premier Soccer League and Living Sky Sports and Entertainment to bring a team to the city’s borders. The soccer stadium is expected to replace the horse racing track and is supposed to be ready by 2023. The news was not accepted lightly by the live harness industry in the region.
Ms. Gardipy stated that due to the upcoming closing down of the venue, the horses she trains will now look to relocate to Assiniboia Downs in Winnipeg and it will be very difficult for her to say goodbye to the animals. However, NDP MLAs Matt Love and Aleana Young are urging the province to raise funds in order to save the horse races in the region, since according to them it is not too late to save the workers’ positions.
Lack of Communication
At the beginning of March, the park announced that the upcoming horse racing season will not be taking place, which was a major letdown for junior jockey Nicole Hein. She expressed her dissatisfaction with the company’s decision to cancel the season but in her words, she will not be giving up on the track. Ms. Hein claimed that the park did not include the horse people in the discussions and kept them in the dark for most of the time.
Despite, the difficulties caused to the horse racing communities in the country by the unprecedented situation, there is even more uncertainty surrounding the industry with the proposal of the introduction of single-event betting. Two of Canada’s horse leaders Ontario Racing and Woodbine Entertainment have decided to support the change but only if the live harness sector is protected from any unintentional harm.
Source: Larsson, Scott “Sask. horse racing community in shock after learning Marquis Downs will be permanently shut down”, CBC, March 12, 2021