After the announcement that no horse races will be held at Maquis Downs in Saskatoon, there is bad news on the horizon for horse people and live harness racing fans. This is the second consecutive season that has been canceled due to the unprecedented situation and the rules that are surrounding it. This has left a bitter taste in the mouths of those involved in the sport, including trainers, jockeys, and even fans.
Park recently announced that this season would also be voided due to unfortunate circumstances and government-imposed regulations. The main reason for this is that most of the track’s jockeys are unable to return to Canada due to travel restrictions, with 76 percent of them originating from the Caribbean. Another factor for the cancellation is the lack of live attendance and financial support.
Kristy Rempel, marketing manager at Prairieland Park, talked about the latest topic of discussion and the current situation of the industry. According to Ms. Rempel, the horse racing sector is going through one of its most difficult spells, and getting out of it would be extremely difficult. She also stated that while the decision to cancel the season was difficult, it complies with the larger picture of the park and its policies during the financial crisis.
The park has suggested 18 and 20-day racing seasons in the negotiations to restart the business, according to Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association Saskatchewan division president Eddie Esquirol. However, he claims that many horse people will be looking to relocate racing for the season because the season is so short that they won’t be able to earn back their investments.
Other locations, such as Lethbridge and Winnipeg, are proceeding with their respective seasons because people can watch live broadcasts of the races and place bets online, according to Mr. Equirol. Since live attendance at the tracks is still prohibited, this is currently an option. However, Saskatoon’s track does not have the needed equipment for simulcasting, thus losing on potential revenue.
Nicole Hein, the park’s only female jockey, has taken a firm stance on the issue. Ms. Hein is currently fighting for the future of the province’s horse racing industry. She might have selected another province for the upcoming season, but she preferred to stay and fight for the industry in her own home, according to her. She even critiqued the park’s decision to cancel the season and even claimed that horsepeople were not included in the negotiations regarding reopening.
In relation to other provinces, the situation in this area is very different. For instance, Ontario recently received approval to reopen four of its tracks for the return of live harness racing seasons. The first events took place on February 16, 2021, with the staff of the reopened premises complying with the mandatory health and safety measures. Last month, Rideau Carleton Raceway, Woodbine Mohawk Park, the Western Fair District, and Flamboro Downs all reopened.
For a long time, the ongoing talks about the legalization of single-game betting have been a subject of extensive discussions around Canada. Following initial concerns that the proposed change in gambling rules would lead to cannibalization of the industry and damage its welfare, Ontario’s horse racing leaders Woodbine Entertainment and Ontario Racing have given their blessing to the proposed change in gambling rules.