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Saskatchewan Welcomes Back Horse Races

News coming straight from Saskatchewan that after almost eight years of no harness competitions, fans of the sport and horsepeople were happy to hear that races will be returning to the province. This has come as a breath of fresh air for industry workers and the sectors many fans in the region after previously Prairieland Park announced that Marquis Downs in Saskatoon will be transformed into a soccer stadium.

Prairieland Park had to cancel the Thoroughbred races on its premises in February this year, and its latest agreement with the Canadian Premier Soccer League to use the ground as a site for a soccer team stadium, thus officially ending horse races in the park. However, there is still a possibility that horse races return to the track before the transition to a stadium becomes reality.

Possible Solution

Marquis Downs last harness races date back way in 2010, and the track has been unable to host both breeds races at the same time due to financial difficulties. Trevor Williams president of the Manitoba Standardbred Racing Industry Inc. has come up with some great news. According to Mr. Williams, there have been discussions between the race track and his father Mike Williams, President of the Manitoba Harness Horsemen Inc. about a potential return of the competitions.

Due to the canceled Thoroughbred season, the venue considers a 10-day stand in Saskatoon to provide the track’s jockeys and trainers with an additional five weeks of horse racing. The renewal of the season is scheduled to be taking place after the end of the summer circuit in Manitoba. The transition to a full-scale soccer stadium is expected to begin as early as 2022, thus allowing horsepeople of the park to enjoy the venue slightly longer.

According to Mr. Williams, the discussions are aiming towards Saturday and Sunday races in the course of five weeks, coming to a total of 10 days of racing. But according to him 10 races a day is unrealistic, and the park aims towards seven per day with an average of around CA$2,500 average purse. Additionally, Mr. Williams is hopeful that the convenient location of the track will be able to generate plenty of interest and horsepeople from neighboring stables.

Despite the recent development on the matter, there is still plenty of details to be ironed out such as race office staff and wagers issues. Mr. Williams remains positive and hopeful that the track will be able to regain some of its former glory and bring locals the last bits of joy before it closes down later down the road.

”Real Gut Punch”

The news about the horse racing track transforming into a full-scale stadium has not been received lightly by local horsepeople. Trainer Anita Gardipy was one of the first to voice their discontent with the project, claiming the whole situation to be a “real gut punch”. But she says that the decision is not surprising since according to her the park’s inactivity and indifference to help the struggling industry was always going to lead up to that.

No Communication

Another one directly affected by the decision was junior jockey Nicole Hein, who also expressed her unhappiness over the recently canceled season and transformation of the property. According to her, the Prairieland Park did not include horsepeople in the discussions for the future of the track. But she remains determined not to give up on her home’s horse racing industry and refuses to travel to a neighboring track in order to compete.

Source: “Harness Racing Returns To Saskatchewan”, Standardbred Canada, March 15, 2021