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Sudbury Downs horse racers wait on racing season news

Talks are getting underway at Sudbury Downs to draw up a blueprint for the harness racing season ahead — but some are worried there aren't enough horses to make a go of it this year.
Harness racers in Sudbury are waiting to hear whether there will be enough racing this year to sustain them.

Talks are getting underway at Sudbury Downs to draw up a blueprint for the harness racing season ahead — but some are worried there aren't enough horses to make a go of it this year.

Horse racer and driver Paul MacLean said he is waiting to hear if there will be enough races at Sudbury Downs to make his participation financially feasible.

Last year, the province cut the slots revenue that used to flow to racetracks in Ontario.

Last season, only 22 races were held in Sudbury. There used to be more than 60.
Paul Maclean, a Sudbury Downs harness driver, has sold 12 horses and is down to three. He estimates the number of race horses in the region is down almost half, compared to a year ago. (Megan Thomas/CBC)

Maclean said he sold a dozen of his horses, and now he's down to just three. His resulting drop in earnings was especially hard in after he had recently made some major purchases.

“Everything [was] new: [I bought a] new tractor trailer … [upgraded my] horses, new house,  [then], all of a sudden, you get cut off at the knees by the Ontario government when they announce … their program is ending.”

Maclean said if there are any fewer than 30 races this season, he probably won't continue. But he remains hopeful.

“Sudbury is one of the … important tracks across Ontario that provide racing in the summer season and that traditionally is 20 race days per year.”

Purse money 'available'

The consultant with the Ontario Racing Commission who's in negotiations with Sudbury Downs said he's distributing the transitional funding — and Sudbury has some savings tucked away.

“There's plenty of purse money available,” John Snobelen said.

“The question is, again, how it would be used and what kind of horses would run and when and over what kind of season?”

Sudbury is eligible for some transitional funding and can share in the $8 million being disbursed to other regional tracks in the province this year.

Sudbury Downs owner Pat MacIsaac has declined to comment on the matter while the negotiations are underway.

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