Truro Raceway gets reprieve, race coming Sunday
Horse owners, track administrators met Friday with local MLA
The Truro Raceway is getting a reprieve and will remain open for the fall after a meeting on Friday with the local MLA to discuss plans for the track.
Lenore Zann, the MLA for Truro-Bible Hill, met with representatives from the Nova Scotia Provincial Exhibition — operators of the Truro-area track — and representatives from the Truro Harness Horse Owners Association.
Steve Morton, the president of the Truro Harness Horse Owners Association, told CBC News that horse racing will continue for the next two Sundays, followed by a regularly scheduled three-week break in August before returning for the regular fall season.
Morton said after Friday morning's meeting, his organization was able to access a fund generated by bets on live races and advance that money to the Truro Raceway so it can continue to host live races. He did not disclose the amount taken from the fund.
The Truro Raceway is almost $1 million in debt and during an emergency meeting earlier this week, the decision was made to pull the plug on harness racing. But horse owners said with an annual revenue of about $3 million, the track could be profitable if properly run.
Morton said approximately 82 per cent of the annual Nova Scotia Provincial Exhibition revenue comes from horse racing.
"We're a big part of the organization and in fairness to everyone, we have to play a bigger part with the board," he told CBC News.
Zann said she was there to act as a bridge between both groups hoping to work out at least a short-term solution that would keep the track open allowing people to keep their jobs.
At Thursday's meeting, the two sides agreed that the Nova Scotia Provincial Exhibition board of directors would look at a reorganization of management. Horse owners said they need to have a bigger voice in the decision making and bring their perspectives to the management team in order for the track to make money.
Plan awaiting approval from volunteer board
"The management here does not have a whole lot of horseracing experience and there's not a lot of professionals that you can call on," said Brent MacGrath, the owner of standardbred racehorse Somebeachsomewhere.
"I've been very successful at it and lucky and I have to believe and we're prepared to put some time and effort into this."
Zann said no government money has been asked for or committed at this point.
Roger MacCallum, the general manager of the Nova Scotia Provincial Exhibition, acknowledged there had been a steady decline over the years, with only 200 to 300 people showing up for races. He said there are even fewer people betting.
The proposed plan still has to be approved by the Nova Scotia Provincial Exhibition volunteer board of directors. That’s expected to happen early next week.
"The board can make a decision on whether they feel that this is something that they want to go forward with," said Zann.
"It would mean probably some new members on the board, which would be great, because I think fresh blood is always good for these kinds of organizations."
The Truro Raceway has been around for nearly 130 years and employs as many as 150 people.