New association formed to help revive harness racing in N.B.
SAINT JOHN – While snowbanks remain high in Saint John, the harness racing season is not far away and a new association would like to see some government help make the industry self sufficient this year.
Forty-five year veteran Mike Downey says it’s been bleak and tough to be optimistic about New Brunswick’s harness racing industry.
“I’m scared but at the same time we still have the horses and we still come do our work seven days a week and, I’m hoping. That’s all I can do is hope,” he said.
The New Brunswick Standardbred Breeders and Owners Association is hoping to improve the industry and has brought all horseman groups together under the same umbrella.
Association president Sam Hodgin believes harness racing can be self sufficient with a bit of help. He says it starts with returning something the previous government took away.
“We had set up a certain amount of VLT’s for our use and our percentage would help our business and the PC government, the previous one, came in and they decided that they no longer wanted us to be in that business,” Hodgin said.
And Hodgin says everyone agrees a new grandstand is critical to moving the industry forward in Saint John.
Veteran driver Gilles Barrieau has spent a lot of time racing at Red Shores Racetrack and Casino on Prince Edward Island, dubbed a racino. He feels adopting a model like that would go a long way in improving the industry in New Brunswick.
“It’s just an ‘A’ show class over there,” he said. “I mean you know the government pitches in for everything over there. They’re behind the scene 100 per cent and you know, racing is beautiful. They have a beautiful grandstand over there.”
Live racing is scheduled to return to the province on Victoria Day.
With files from Global’s Andrew Cromwell