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No 2013 Racing At West Meadows

Published: June 26, 2013 1:25 pm ET

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On Wednesday, West Meadows Raceway President Jane Grainger announced that the Regina-area track will not host live harness racing in 2013.

“This is probably the most difficult announcement I have had to release,” said Grainger in a statement. "We are forced to cancel the 2013 racing program due mostly to the Saskatchewan Government’s refusal to issue a Home Market Area (HMA) license to us for Southern Saskatchewan."

The move to cancel the West Meadows meet came as the result of the province cancelling racing grants that have been previously issued annually in the province for 35 years, and refusing it an opportunity to earn industry-related revenue through HMA assignment.

"The province of Saskatchewan is a rich province. It is plenty big to share two Home Market Areas as it has through several decades, so that both industries have an opportunity to grow," stated the release. "The government basically chose to support one city, one group (Saskatoon), over the other (Regina). It is just wrong that revenue from the Regina area would go towards the Saskatoon track and not the Regina track."

Home Market Area (HMA) was created by the Canadian Pari-Mutuel Agency to support and protect local racetracks and their live race programs. Being assigned a HMA allows a track to generate revenues to support live racing by setting up teletheatres and telephone account betting (TAB) accounts in their designated area.

Prior to 2002, Queensbury Downs and Prairieland Park mutually agreed that it would be fair to split the province for HMA and Saskatoon (the thoroughbred race program) would have HMA from Davidson north and Queensbury Downs (the Standardbred program) would receive HMA from Davidson south. When Queensbury Downs decided to change priorities and discontinue live horse racing, Prairieland Park purchased the teletheatre equipment from them and SLGA transferred the teletheatre license to Prairieland Park since Queensbury Downs was no longer able to operate the teletheatres without a live racing program.

In fact, the Saskatchewan Liquor & Gaming Authority issued a three-year license to thoroughbred track Prairieland Park in Saskatoon and granted that track the HMA for the entire province. According to the release, this is the first time the annual license has ever been granted for more than one year at a time.

"West Meadows Raceway was built by shareholders who wanted to be a part of the revival of harness racing in this great province, " continued Grainger. “We built a great facility and set modern day wagering records in both years we raced and it proved we were right – Regina loves harness racing. They want it back for good and responded even better than we had expected. Showing much promise for the future, the daily wager for harness racing increased dramatically in those days raced at West Meadows Raceway, something we worked hard at, and are very proud of.”

Saskatchewan's other racetrack, Cornerstone Raceway at the Yorkton Exhbition grounds is operated by the Yorkton Exhibition Authority. That group entered into an "Agreement in Principle" with Prairieland Park [Marquis Downs] in Saskatoon to explore “mutually beneficial” funding opportunities for horse racing on a going forward basis. Prairieland currently conducts a thoroughbred race meet during the summer, and Yorkton was approved earlier this year to host 12 days of racing, giving Saskatchewan's harness racing community its only live racing dates for this year.

"The other harness track chose not to join us in pursuit of an HMA license for the harness racing industry, but instead entered into an agreement with the thoroughbred track in Saskatoon," stated the West Meadows release. "We could have had six months of harness racing between us, which would have been a win-win for everyone. It is a sad time here for those who worked so hard so the industry would have a permanent harness racing home in a bigger market and a future that horsemen could build stables around and depend on for the long term."


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