Except for the occasional neigh or nicker, mornings are seemingly quiet at Alberta Downs.
But the still air is deceiving as hands work efficiently, albeit quietly, to prepare for an afternoon of standardbred harness racing at the track near Lacombe.
Hooves are tended to, hopples are adjusted and race bikes are prepped. Horses are rinsed and groomed before donning their gear to go out for a warm up lap around the track.
It is then that the sound of hooves stomping along the mile-long clay track is added to the day’s soundtrack and excitement starts to build for the approaching post time.
Horses and drivers are corralled in a staging area, and a small crowd gathers in the mezzanine and along the track fencing.
Bets are wagered on site and abroad as a giant satellite feeds race footage across North America.
The starting gate, attached to pick up truck, whizzes by and, as the announcer declares by bellowing into the sound system, they’re off.
Up to a total of 100 horses compete in ten races, which span the hours of the afternoon.
An exciting buzz fills the air as horses reach speeds upwards of 53 km/h, accelerating in an attempt to break track records.
In it’s second year of operation, Alberta Downs struggled with the soppy spring weather but has rescheduled some of the cancelled contests in hopes of hosting some 50 races before the season wraps up on August 29.
Races start at 1:35 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday while post times on Monday is 5:05 p.m.
Admissions into the track is free. For more information, visit www.albertadowns.com.
For race entries and results, visit www.standardbredcanada.ca.