The ponies are coming back to Lacombe.
Harness racers will be at the post at Track on 2 beginning on Sept. 1 and races will continue until the end of October, said Kyla Belich, who with husband Kurt and partner Ross Morrison, owns the former Alberta Downs track at Hwy 2 and Hwy 12.
It will be the first official racing at the track since 2016, although a few exhibition races were run last fall.
“They actually assign races in October of the prior year so we consider ourselves very lucky that we have 10 races this year,” she said.
“In 2019 we’ll certainly be able to offer more race days because we’ll have our race licence when they do the assigning.” She hopes to bring in quarterhorse and thoroughbred racing as well.
Track on 2 will be more than a horse racing venue. Since the purchase deal closed, Track on 2’s owners have been galloping ahead with improvements.
When current renovations at the track are complete, it will be able to accommodate 600 to 800 people for major functions, weddings and other events. The longer term plan is to enclose the grandstand to create a venue for 2,400.
Six luxury suites have been built on the grandstand to go along with a large banquet area.
Bringing horse racing back was not a sure bet when they bought the track, she said.
“When we purchased the property we weren’t sure what we would be up against in terms of overcoming all of those hurdles and getting the races.
“But there seemed to be a tremendous amount of support from the horse racing community and Central Alberta. That’s what motivated us to do it.
“It’s been a huge learning curve for us but what we are learning is there is a lot of interest from people to coming to the races.”
Harness racing will begin with three days of racing Sept. 1-3. Live entertainment will run through all three days. Next race day is Sept. 8 and then every Sunday until the end of October. On race days, the gate opens at 11:30 a.m. and the first post is 1:15 p.m.
Belich said one of the draws of horse racing is that it can be an inexpensive day out. Admission and parking are free and it is up to visitors to decide if they want to put a couple of dollars down on their favourite horse.