With a horse shortage causing the reduction of live harness racing dates in Alberta in recent weeks, Don McDougall, President of the Alberta Standardbred Horse Association (ASHA), has provided an update on the racing schedule.
"As many of you have noticed, there have been some changes to our racing dates," said McDougall in a message to the industry. "This is something we are not fond of doing mid-season but has come about with thought and meetings with our partner tracks. It should not surprise anyone that we are dealing with a shortage of horses, as a matter of fact, it is probably difficult to find a single track in North America [that] isn’t! Cards like the past two Saturdays with seven races are not the product that we are trying to move forward with. There were some extenuating circumstances in this instance, an outbreak of sickness similar in size to last December but thankfully with horses mostly not having temperatures. The backstretch seems to be coming out of it now, but the effects are still lingering somewhat."
Starting in July, the live harness racing schedule in Alberta will switch to a new format with racing on Fridays and Saturdays at Century Downs, and Sundays at Track on 2. However, a reduced two-day-per-week race schedule will continue until mid-July with no racing on the first two Fridays due to the horse shortage. Extra races will be carded to ensure that as many horses as possible get a start when they enter. The first Friday is expected to be July 15.
"We will be closely monitoring the situation and will update the industry if we need to hold back this start of three days a week for any additional time," said McDougall, who noted that the racing community is excited about the arrival of two-year-olds and the first freshman stakes at the end of July.
McDougall shared that there will be a purse increase across the board by an additional 10 per cent, with a little extra added to a couple classes.
"This has come about because of a couple less cards and some cards with less races the past few weeks," he said. "We are confident that we will be able to maintain this purse level for the rest of our 2022 race dates along with another hopeful increase sometime in January of 2023... With these increases, the purses in Alberta will be in a stronger position while also supporting a nice stakes package. We are hopeful to make a few changes for 2023, stay tuned for more news in this regard."
This week, live racing is scheduled for Tuesday, June 21 and Saturday, June 25 at Century Downs.
To view the revised Alberta race date schedule, click here.
(With files from ASHA)