Moosomin First Nation promises 'revitalization' with new horse-racing track

Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations Chief Bobby Cameron says the announcement of the new racetrack is an important step, both for Moosomin First Nation and reconciliation in the province as a whole.

Moosomin Downs announcement comes after months of uncertainty about future of horse racing in Sask.

Horse racing is expected to continue in Saskatchewan after months of uncertainty, with Moosomin First Nation's announcement of a new race track in the municipality of Corman Park. (Alicia Bridges/CBC)

After months of uncertainty, the future of horse racing in Saskatchewan is seeing some stability with Moosomin First Nation's announcement of a new racetrack, planned for construction in the municipality of Corman Park.

The track, to be called Moosomin Downs, will play host to an assortment of events, ranging from thoroughbred horse racing to equine therapy programs. Moosomin First Nation leaders say it will be a renewal for the sport in the province. 

"Over the last 25 years, our First Nation had a dream of developing our Treaty Land Entitlement lands in the RM of Corman Park. We will now be breaking ground and participating in the economy by utilizing the lands our treaty promise ensured us," Moosomin Chief Brad Swiftwolfe said in a Friday news release. 

"We're going to be inclusive and will be reaching out to all stakeholders and interests when our implementation plan is more substantive."

Whether horse racing in Saskatchewan would continue was in question for months leading up to Friday's announcement.

Earlier this year, Prairieland Park indicated it would no longer be operating Marquis Downs in Saskatoon — the province's only race track — leaving many in the horse-racing community in limbo.

Now, assets from Prairieland will be donated in kind to the endeavour.

While the move is welcomed by leaders in the RM of Corman Park — the municipality that surrounds Saskatoon — some members of the horse-racing community say the industry will suffer as people wait for a new track to be constructed. 

"Time is not on our side when it comes to waiting for the construction of new tracks," said Nicole Hein, an apprentice jockey who races at Marquis Downs and leader of a grassroots effort to save the track.

"Everything is ready to go, ready and waiting right here in Saskatoon."

Nicole Hein, an apprentice jockey and an advocate for the Saskatchewan horse-racing industry, is seen in this supplied photo during a morning gallop at Prairieland Park. She feels many in the horse-racing community in Saskatoon will still be affected as they wait for the construction of a new track. (Leanne King Photography)

The group is currently working to get heritage status for Marquis Downs. They say that effort will continue, even as a new track is in the works, and plan to make a presentation to the city in June.

Hein says the fact people are looking at other ways to continue the sport proves there's a viable market for horse racing in Saskatchewan, and for the continuation of Marquis Downs, which she says is being abandoned. 

While the issue is complex, she says she is overall pleased that horse racing will continue in Saskatchewan.

"I'm glad things aren't completely over, but I wish we could all come together to focus on something that exists right now, that can provide the service to the community immediately, and not in the future." 

Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations Chief Bobby Cameron says the announcement is an important step, both for Moosomin First Nation and reconciliation in the province as a whole.

The development "will provide the foundation for revitalization of a part of our identity as First Nations people that was on the brink of being lost," Cameron said in Friday's news release.

"We honour the cultural and spiritual impact of our sacred relationship with the horse spirit, and we are proud to see its sacred teachings once again throughout our treaty lands."

The Moosomin First Nation Economic Development Corporation will be the official body behind the project.