Sask. horse-racing trade devastated after 2021 racing season at Marquis Downs cancelled


Members of Saskatchewan’s horse-racing group are devastated after the cancellation of the 2021 season at Marquis Downs in Saskatoon. They are saying extra might have been carried out to avoid wasting the season and that the cancellation might trigger long-term injury to the game in Saskatchewan.

Horse-racing at Marquis Downs, a racetrack operated by Prairieland Park, was cancelled final yr resulting from COVID-19. Earlier this week, the group introduced the 2021 season can be cancelled as effectively.

The information is a heavy blow for a lot of within the trade. Some declare Prairieland Park has been holding them at the hours of darkness about plans for the season after a deal to lease the power to Pan Am Horse Racing Inc. for 2021 was unsuccessful.

“It appears to me that they have not put ahead the trouble that one would anticipate from a corporation that’s within the enterprise of operating horse-racing and selling agriculture,” stated Nicole Hein, an apprentice jockey and one of many solely feminine jockeys within the province.

Hein is spearheading a grassroots effort to boost consciousness of the short- and long-term results the cancellation can have on the horse-racing trade in Saskatchewan.

She stated many locally are upset, as there’s been “silence for months” from Prairieland Park, leaving many who rely upon the racetrack in limbo. 

Hein was one of many organizers of a small demonstration at Metropolis Corridor on Friday geared toward making extra folks conscious of the scenario. She stated organizers really feel their voice has not been heard and that Prairieland Park must do extra to assist the game. 

“They only sat silent for months after which made this resolution,” she stated.

A small group of individuals gathered at Saskatoon’s Metropolis Corridor this week to boost consciousness of the cancellation of the 2021 horse-racing season at Marquis Downs. (Chanss Lagaden)

Mark Reiger, CEO of Prairieland Park, stated the group was nonetheless making efforts to run races in 2021 till three days earlier than the cancellation.

He stated the pandemic hit Prairieland Park exhausting and introduced points for a possible 2021 season. He pointed to each recruitment of worldwide jockeys — a course of with intensive COVID-19 protocols — and an absence of settlement with the Saskatchewan’s Horsemen Benevolent and Protecting Affiliation (HPBA) representing homeowners and trainers as components. 

“The very fact is, the horsemen have not agreed to twenty days of racing, which is an issue in itself. In the event that they refuse to race, then we’ve no horses, so we’re carried out,” he stated. “The larger challenge is the jockey scenario. If we had an settlement with the horsemen and we might get jockeys in, we’d take into account this.” 

Prairieland Park put ahead a suggestion to run 20 days of races, however the HPBA needed to see a 24-day season to make sure the prices of operating are coated.

Regier stated the problem comes all the way down to funds.

“We make investments giant quantities of cash to make it function and there is limits as to what we are able to do,” he stated. 

“With the shutdown of our complete operations right here, Prairieland could possibly be dropping as a lot as $3 million this yr. In order that poses a giant problem for us too. What number of days are sufficient? What are we speculated to do? We strive our greatest right here to make it work, however there are limitations as to what we are able to do.” 

He stated Prairieland not having utilized for permits as normal a “non-issue,” saying they may have been acquired shortly if wanted.

We strive our greatest right here to make it work, however there are limitations as to what we are able to do.– Mark Reiger, CEO of Prairieland PArk

Sport will undergo from cancelled seasons

Eddie Esquirol, President of the Saskatchewan HPBA, stated homeowners and trainers countered with the 24-day season as a result of money streams from gate admission and concessions would probably be off the desk resulting from COVID, so they’d be counting on income from wagering and race takes alone.

“Bear in mind the care of the animals, the care of the horses, is 12 months a yr,” he stated.

He stated some racetracks have had success broadcasting their globally by way of simulcast, which permits folks in worldwide markets to guess on reside races even when bodily attendance is proscribed.

When you can wager on horse racing at Marquis Down by a smartphone app, the software program relies out of Ontario, that means some cash comprised of Saskatchewan betters will not keep within the province, Esquirol stated.

He stated Prairieland Park must spend money on a worldwide simulcast, and the advertising and planning required to make it profitable.

He additionally stated he is “at a loss” as to why Prairieland Park management will not be a part of the HPBA’s efforts to foyer the provincial authorities for funding, which he stated could possibly be one avenue to saving the struggling trade. He is undecided Saskatchewan’s horse-racing trade will be capable of survive with out provincial intervention.

“There’s 500 folks which might be affected straight and there is one other 500 plus which might be affected not directly,” he stated. “So for Prairieland to not conduct horse racing in Saskatoon for the summer season of 2021, you’ve got many individuals which might be both going to be compelled to relocate to our neighbouring provinces or discover another type of employment in Saskatoon.”

Praireland has no real interest in additional lobbying efforts 

Reiger stated Prairieland has invested hundreds of thousands within the sport of horse-racing over time and is not interested by asking the province for cash alongside the HPBA. Though Prairieland supported a petition lobbying the province for funding in the summertime, he stated it has no real interest in persevering with lobbying efforts.

“That is their initiative, it is in entrance of the desk and we’ll allow them to discuss to the federal government,” he stated, noting there would not be thoroughbred racing within the province in any respect if not for Marquis Downs.

Requested about criticisms that Prairieland is not doing sufficient, he stated, “that is their opinion and I respect that.”

On Friday, CBC reached out to Prairieland Park with comply with up questions concerning the 2021 horse-racing season, together with questions on a worldwide simulcast, however a response was not acquired by deadline.

Marquis Downs is the premier horse-racing monitor in Saskatchewan. (Provided/Prairieland Park)

A information launch from Prairieland Park stated its income is derived from “commerce reveals, banquets, agricultural exhibitions, and the Exhibition itself,” all of which have been unable to open resulting from COVID-19.

“The impact of that has been a big discount in revenues. To assist preserve its robust steadiness sheet, Prairieland Park has been compelled to make many tough selections during the last yr,” the assertion stated. “The first dedication is opening operations when secure to take action.”

Kristy Rempel, advertising supervisor with Praireland Park, instructed CKOM that the park understands the cancellation of the 2021 season “does successfully finish horse-racing within the province.”

Esquirol stated he is reached out to the province in hopes of assembly to debate additional choices.

He stated he is but to get a response. 

Hein, who needs to see horse-racing develop and thrive in Saskatoon, stated leaders at Prairieland must do their half to verify the game survives.

“Everyone wants to tug up their bootstraps and get to work and never disguise behind a desk and simply resolve the destiny of a complete trade out of your chair,” she stated.

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