An entrepreneurial central Alberta trio’s bet on the horses is paying off.
Couple Kurt and Kyla Belich and partner Ross Morrison bought the former Alberta Downs horse racing track next to Highway 2, west of Lacombe, two years ago.
They extensively renovated it to create The Track on 2 Horse Racing and Event Centre.
Empty nesters with two grown children, the Belichs were farming and running a couple of businesses, but wanted a new challenge. Fellow entrepreneur Morrison farms 3,500 acres west of Red Deer.
While newcomers to harness racing, the partners have enjoyed the ride so far.
“We had the opportunity to get this place. It was kind of abandoned for a couple of years, so we tore it all apart and put it back together, refinished it all, and then we started last September running races,” says Kurt.
“It’s really been an adventure. We didn’t really know a lot about it when we got involved.”
That did not stop them from hosting an exhibition harness race only weeks after becoming race track owners.
“It was a little bit crazy, because it was just a month after we bought the property,” he says.
“We really enjoyed it and the community was fantastic with their support. We had a lot of people come out and watch.
“Then we decided this had a future and some potential.”
By the end of this season, 17 race days will have been held at the track, which includes Western Canada’s only 7/8-mile turf track and a one-mile dirt track. Admission and parking are free.
“Last year, we had 10 race days, so we’re going in the right direction,” says Kurt, who hopes to add even more race days next year.
“The track is in really good shape, and we have over double the horsemen we had last year staying with us.”
Race days are aimed at families. Barn tours, meet-the-pony events and stick horse races are just a few of the draws for the younger set.
“We try to make it fun for everybody. We definitely focus on the family aspect of it all.”
Many spectators are new to harness racing, so Track on 2 sees an opportunity to spread the word about what the sport is all about.
School groups have already been toured around, and for those interested in the rush of wagering, learn-to-bet sessions are planned for this fall.
“It’s actually quite easy. You can have a great time betting a dollar. You don’t have to break the bank.”
Races take place today with a 1:10 p.m. post time. Races are also taking place the afternoons of Sept. 14, 21 and 28.
Besides the on-site racing, Track on 2 has parimutuel racing available on simulcast monitors and there are three VLTs.
The partners’ vision has always been to create more than a horse racing track. They have created a facility to host weddings, Christmas, retirement and birthday parties, farmers markets, swap meets, corporate retreats, school tours and other events.
The Funky Monkey Kitchen and Bar is open daily and led by Red Deer chef and Chopped Canada winner Pete Sok, who creates a lot of farm-to-table dishes using produce grown right on site.
“We are an event centre, so we try to keep it busy, even when we’re not racing,” says Kurt.
Just recently, Lacombe County gave the track approval to host eight outdoor concerts and he hopes to have the first this fall.
“We offer a place where we can have an outdoor concert, where maybe other places can’t. We’re under cover, so if the weather isn’t 100-per-cent perfect that day, we can still run.
“We’d like to have a ticketed event, where we’re only going to have about a thousand. We can accommodate a thousand guests really well.”
See www.thetrackon2.com for more information and race dates.