Over the last weekend, New Brunswick could have witnessed its last set of horse racing at Exhibition Park Raceway and the province for a while. This is due to the fact that Exhibition Association decided not to renew the lease with Horse Racing New Brunswick, and the organization believes that it is time for a change of scenery at the Saint John harness racing track.
The park has been part of the Saint John region for more than a decade now and over that time it has offered weekly horse racing events. And the Exhibition Association has opted to not renew the lease, thus ending horse racing at the track. This decision generated tons of discontent among the provincial harness racing industry and its many horsepeople.
Bad News for the Local Sector
In a recent press release, Exhibition Association’s Judy Martin said that the Board of Directors voted not to sign another lease agreement with Horse Racing New Brunswick. He explained that the association decided to pursue other opportunities that may have the potential to make better use of the land and the facilities to deliver a greater benefit to the Saint John region.
However, the decision comes as bad news for locals who participate in horse racing at the track. Now they will have to travel outside of the town to continue doing their jobs. But with no track assigned for the 2023 season, they will have to take their horses elsewhere, once the lease expires at the end of the current calendar year.
Janice Hubbard, who has been involved in horse racing for years with her family, said that she will not vacate the premises before December 31, 2022. She insists that this is something that cannot be taken away from her. Since moving from Ontario to the town, she has invested a significant amount of money into the horses and she does not plan to give up without a fight.
Scott Bernard, host of the History of EPR Podcast is also affected by the news and shared that it was like a punch in the gut for him. He admits that the business has regressed and despite the lack of betting, there is still plenty of interest in the sport. However, he and other fans of the harness races will have to look elsewhere to watch or participate in horse racing.
Similar Situation in Saskatchewan
Something similar occurred in Saskatchewan last year when Saskatoon’s Prairieland Park announced that it will be suspending operations at the historic Marquis Downs. And the reason for that according to the park was that the race track has been operating at a loss of CA$500,000 annually over the course of the last five years. Now, the track will be replaced by a soccer stadium.
Fast forwarding to this summer, the track has most likely hosted its last set of horse racing. This was possible after Moosomin First Nation gained a license to operate a track in the region. After the closure of Marquis Downs, the Nation plans to launch a brand-new track in the northwest area of Saskatoon near SaskTel Centre.
Source: Power, Zack “Horse racing in New Brunswick uncertain following the end of a lease” GlobalNews, October 12, 2022