The race is on for 2021

Horses getting ready for season opener at Red Shores Charlottetown.

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Fred MacDonald, editor of the Atlantic Post Calls

Fred MacDonald, editor of the Atlantic Post Calls

The weather hasn’t been co-operating lately but all signs suggest the opening of Atlantic Canada harness racing should get underway on schedule, with the curtain going up on Sunday, April 25th at Truro Raceway, followed by Red Shores Charlottetown on Saturday, May 8th, 2021. Qualifiers are set for Red Shores Charlottetown at 12:30, Saturday, May 1st and for 6:30 Tuesday evening, May 4th; Summerside qualifiers are set for noon on Sunday, May 2nd at SRW.

Elsewhere in Canada, especially in Ontario, the situation is much different and even though the horsemen and the racetracks have had no cases of Covid, the racetracks remain dark forcing many stables to relocate south of the border. It is frustrating to watch major league sports like hockey, baseball and basketball continue to play even though games have been cancelled due to players testing positive for Covid and even more frustrating watching all the USA tracks like Meadowlands, Yonkers, Pocono and Northfield operating yet Mohawk and other Ontario tracks are closed. Let’s hope the Ontario government takes a second look at the situation and correct a wrong that is painfully hurting both the Ontario standardbred and thoroughbred industries.

Atlantic Canada horsemen should be thankful for the good fortune that has blessed this region, thankful that we have the Covid monster under control, and thankful that we have the support of the provincial government which is not always the case in other provinces and states south of the border.

Horsemen in the state of Florida certainly know what we are talking about. We have been following the comings and goings politically in Florida and a Republican proposed De-Coupling Bill (SPB 7080) is in the works that would result in the end of racing at Pompano Park. The bill would mean that Pompano Park Casino would no longer be required to fund harness racing as a condition of offering casino games. Tampa Bay Downs and Gulfstream Park, thoroughbred tracks, would continue to enjoy the benefits of the Casino profits but harness racing would be the ultimate loser. Pompano Park has seen its pari-mutual handle soar this past winter, the highest in the track’s history, but it could never stay afloat without the casino money, no track in North America can.

Harness Racing everywhere in Canada and the United States should understand that these are dangerous times and we must at every opportunity impress upon the governments in the states and provinces that the harness racing industry is a huge employer that is essential to the health of the agricultural industry and the overall financial picture in those regions. Harness Racing must develop or continue to develop a great working relationship with governments of every strip, because one never knows what may happen when government treasuries are bare.The Florida legislature will make the decision on the De-coupling Bill in early May. Stay tuned.

One of the first signs that harness racing is just around the corner is the notice from Red Shores that race fans can see the babies in training, much like the televised sessions at The Stable.Ca, a feature that is certain to please the many owners anxiously waiting to hear the first bugle call at local Maritime race tracks. 

Atlantic Canada standardbred breeding farms are extremely busy this time of year with new babies on the ground, some mares getting ready to deliver foals and other mares trying to get in foal, a costly venture especially if the mares do not catch and you are importing semen. It’s healthy to see New Brunswick back in the breeding game; see Grady Hachey’s Question and Answer piece on page 2 in the April issue of Atlantic Post Calls.

If you’ve been following racing south of the border, you will have enjoying watching the exploits of horses that were bred and or raised right here in the Maritimes. PEI bred Lovedbythemasses (Muscle Mass - Incredability) stepped to a new lifetime best of 1:51.4 last weekend at The Meadowlands in the $21,000 class, and more recently finished 5th in the $30,000 Open with the big boys like Scirocco Bob, Lindy the Great and J L Cruze. The same weekend, Maritime bred Pappy Go Go (Tad the Stud) won the $15,000 feature at Plainridge in 1:57.3 while a couple of veterans added to their lifetime accounts. The Rev (by Western Paradise) was 2nd placed 3rd in 1:54 (purse $10,500) in an overnight event at Yonkers while Proven Desire (by Proven Lover) was 4th in 1:51.3 (purse $16,000) as he pushes towards the $500,000 barrier. The Rev is the richest money winning Maritime bred in history and he is still rolling right along.

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