No Races In Saskatoon This Year - Again

By Ben Hamill - March 07 2021
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No Races In Saskatoon This Year - Again

There will this year for the second year in a row be no horse racing at Saskatoon’s Marquis Downs. The 2021 season, not unlike the situation that prevailed for most of last year, is been officially cancelled as a result of the restrictions created by the global health crisis. And needless to say, the news has left local jockeys and horse people devastated.

But the global disaster is according to Prairieland Park marketing manager Kristy Rempel not the first sign of trouble the local industry had experienced. Rempel said its no secret the local industry has been trading in the red for several years now – all of which she said has now made it nearly impossible for local horse racing to continue amid such a massive downturn.

Rempel also added that losses at Marquis Downs are now officially up to roughly half a million dollars annually.

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Second Year Of Struggling

Said Horseman’s Benevolent and Protective Association (HBPA) Saskatchewan division president Eddie Esquirol in response to the disappointing news, Prairieland last year offered an abbreviated 18- and 20-day race season throughout the negotiated summer and fall.

According to Esquirol, since many owners now have no way of making back their millions of dollars in investments in their horses in struggling Saskatoon, they’ll have no other option than to start looking at alternative regions to race for the 2021 season. This is unfortunate, but at the same time unavoidable as things stand at the moment, Esquirol added.

Esquirol also explained that horse racing people invest in their horses and in the industry 365 days a year, and are eager to be contributing to the local economy instead of having to take their investments and business elsewhere.  

The Marquis Downs Disadvantage

According to Rempel, what makes the situation specially precarious for Marquis Downs, is the fact that the race course isn’t kitted out for simulcasting. This makes fans physically present in the stands a vital financial lifeline.

Several other locations – including Winnipeg and Lethbridge – are in a position to go ahead with their racing seasons. These are locations equipped with the simulcasting technology necessary for broadcasting races to betters via a virtual platform, meaning they’re still able to earn an income.

But although many have opted to leave Saskatoon for greener pastures, jockeys like the only female jockey currently riding at Marquis Downs, Nicole Hein, says she’ll continue to fight for horse racing to stay alive and well in Saskatchewan. Even though she could be racing in another province, said Hein, she’s decided to stay for her city, her province, and the people who have worked so hard to keep the local industry alive.

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