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Does Marquis Downs’ Closure Affect Locals?

The earlier announcement of the closing down of the horse racing track Marquis Downs is starting to affect horsepeople during the last season ever at the venue. Hundreds of horse owners, jockeys, and trainers are now looking at the future with uncertainty as their life-long investment and occupation in Saskatoon is about to come to an end.

The thoroughbred horse racing oval is located in Prairieland Park in Saskatoon, and previously this year the park announced its decision to replace it with a Canadian Premier League soccer team. The non-profit corporation that operates the park leases the land from the City of Saskatoon and its decision is not affected by municipal opinion or approval.

Hard Pill to Swallow

Former trainer George Gervais shared his discontent with the track’s impending closure and says the news is hard to come to peace with. The 75-year-old insists that the track is a business that should not have ended as he still tends to his horse with the help of his grandson Kailum Gervais, who is part of the Keeseekoose First Nation.

The grandson has always planned to take over the family business in the future, however, things are about to change with the closure of the racing facility. In order for the pair to continue racing this season they had to travel to Manitoba, which caused lots of trouble due to cost and quarantine protocols. This could be their last season participating together.

Horse trainer Jamie Hartmann has been at the track for the last eight seasons, and she grew up around the track. Her aunt Jody Hunter was the first female to win a training title in Canada at a prestigious track. With the closure, Ms. Hartmann had to relocate the horse that she trains to compete in other provinces around the country.

Breeders Bev Leonard and Eddie Esquirol are also upset with the closing of the oval. The pair has been breeding and training horses at Fox Tower Farms for over 20 years. Mr. Esquirol stated that he first started working with fillies at the age of 17 and he is now extremely disappointed with the decision to shut down the track.

Trainer Anita Gardipy has also shared her unhappiness with the park’s decision to close down the track and replace it with a soccer team. She explained that the news was “a real gut punch” for her, but she said that the news did not surprise her, as the management of the park never did enough for the park and was indifferent to its situation.

Financial Obstacles

In June Prairieland Park shared some information about Marquis Downs’ current and previous financial state. According to reports from the park, the horse racing venue has been operating at a loss of CA$500,000 annually for the past five years and it was not only the impact of the unprecedented situation that hurt it. The track’s land can be now used for many purposes, but the park has opted for the introduction of a soccer team.

Source: Berg, Michelle “Shut Downs: The end of an equine era in Saskatoon”, Saskatoon StarPhoenix, September 24, 2021