The ponies won’t be running again as hoped at Alberta Downs this year, but the horse racing track got some good news for next year.
Horse Racing Alberta has pencilled in the new facility for 50 days of harness racing on the A circuit from May 8 to Aug. 29.
“I’m really happy with what’s happening there,” said track owner Robert Allen Tuesday
“So I will be getting the best horses probably in Western Canada here,” Allen said. “If I get some thoroughbred racing on top, I’ll be really excited.”
It’s been a trying year for Allen but the finish line is in sight. He expects within days to get the final permits he needs to get started on finishing off the grandstand, a project he will spend the winter completing. It was the delay in getting the grandstand completed that ended his hopes of squeezing a few more racing days in this fall.
Alberta Environment is close to approving permits he needs to tap local water sources for horses and to irrigate. Once Alberta Environment signs off, Lacombe County can issue a development permit.
The track opened for racing April 18, drawing several hundred spectators and generating positive reviews from the harness racing community. Persistent frost problems forced Allen to close down the track a few weekends early while repairs were made to soft spots.
Since then he has been undertaking landscaping work and other improvements while waiting for final permit approvals.
Horse Racing Alberta chairwoman Shirley McClellan sees a lot of potential in the Lacombe track, which would be a welcome addition to the harness racing circuit.
“It’s a lovely venue, very attractive. I was there about four of the weekends they raced,” said McClellan, a former deputy premier before retiring from politics in 2007.
“It’s a track the standardbreds in particular were interested in running on, and we need the space
“It’s very important for us to add another racing venue. It’s kind of ironic, a lot of places in North America are shutting down tracks and we’re trying to open. This is a fact of life here right now and we’re short of tracks to run on.”
The 50 days of scheduling announced by Horse Racing Alberta (HRA) last week is a proposed scheduling by a working committee. It will be up to the horsemen’s associations and the tracks to negotiate deals, which would then go to Horse Racing Alberta for approval.
“We hope those negotiations don’t take too long because the one thing the horsemen don’t need is uncertainty,” she said.
Negotiations had dragged on in the past and the committee was formed, with representatives from Horse Racing Alberta, the horsemen’s associations and the larger tracks, to speed up the process and work out the complex scheduling.
Other racing will take place at Edmonton’s Northlands Park and at tracks in Grande Prairie and Lethbridge.
There is also a one-day event in Millarville.