Alberta Downs owner still fighting for races

Alberta Downs racetrack owner Bob Allen is not one to shy away from a challenge.

Alberta Downs racetrack owner Bob Allen is not one to shy away from a challenge.

Notified last November that Horse Racing Alberta was cutting his facility from its 2015 racing schedule, Allen has fought hard to get the organization to change its mind and send some races his way.

He’s expecting to hear soon if his efforts have paid off.

Allen sent a letter to the racing body on Thursday through his lawyer to push them to make a decision on his race days soon.

He earlier threatened to sue Horse Racing Alberta for $8 million, arguing it was reneging on an agreement to support his track which was given a 10-year operating licence in 2012.

That’s not the route he’d like to go though.

Legal fights are expensive with no guarantee of victory.

If Horse Racing Alberta doesn’t come through with some racing days, Allen already has a Plan B in mind.

“Here’s what I’m going to do. If they don’t give me race days I’m running anyways. I’m going to run 33 days of thoroughbred racing.”

Under the rules, he can’t have betting in Canada but he’s got U.S. tracks interested in the betting end.

He says he also has betting contracts with tracks in Jamaica, Bahamas and South America.

That means punters there can bet on races run at his track next to Hwy 2 just west of Lacombe.

If he goes ahead with the plan, racing would start at the end of May.

Allen sees this as a “last resort” option.

What he still wants to see Horse Racing Alberta relent and give him the racing days he needs to make a go of it.

“They started out at 26 days. Now they’re trying to cut me down to 10 days and they’ve got all kinds of other little conditions,” he said.

He’s invested about $200,000 more in meeting conditions, including providing engineering and safety documentation and letters of support, without any guarantee of landing race days.

What’s on the table — but hasn’t been officially approved yet — are 10 harness racing days and five thoroughbred days, he said.

Meanwhile, in Calgary the new Century Downs track held its first racing on Saturday.

Horse Racing Alberta could not be reached for comment on Friday.

pcowley@bprda.wpengine.com