Handing over the reins: Northlands Park hosts final horse-racing event
It’s the end of an era in Edmonton: Saturday marked the final day the Northlands Park Racetrack hosted a race.
Northlands Park has been in operation for 118 years and has been one of Western Canada’s most well-known racetracks.
“The reality is, that no one truly owns horse racing,” Northlands Racing and Gaming director Scott Sinclair said.
“We are all just caretakers of an unbelievable sport and we are confident in how we have done our part of the past 118 years.”
John Baxter has been associated with Northlands Park for 50 years and continues to jog with his horse on the track.
“I’ve seen it go from small to big, and going back small again,” Baxter said.
His favourite memories are of the great horses that have raced on the old track. Baxter has mixed feelings about the final day.
“It’s sad it’s coming to an end but it’s exciting to see the new place.
“Apparently, it’s pretty nice. It’s big, it’s state-of-the-art and it’ll be just bigger and better.”
Baxter is referring to the Century Mile Racetrack, which is scheduled to open in the spring of 2019 after the start day was pushed back from August 2018.
The new horse-racing track is being built south of the city on Edmonton International Airport land.
Century Mile will feature a one-mile track, up from the five-eights the horses have been circuiting at Northlands.
“The mares and stallions will be more distance-oriented now. The gene pool will now be searching for better quality horses to compete on a mile race track,” said trainer Tim Rycroft.
WATCH: Northlands Park is getting ready to host its final horse-racing event. John Sexsmith reports.
There will be 600 slot machines at the Century Mile.
“We’re going to have pretty dynamic gaming floor. Bars and restaurants, tiered seating upstairs with wonderful views of the race track,” said Geoff Smith, managing director of Century Casinos.
Century Mile will open in April. It will host the Canadian Derby in August.
Despite his excitement for the opening of the new track, Baxter will miss Northlands Park.
“The track here is probably the best five-eighths-mile track in the world,” he said.
“You can go fast on it. It’s a kind track, it’s never bad, it’s always good.”
Feb. 17, 2016: With the unveiling of its new vision for the future, Northlands has announced 2016 will be the last season of horse racing at Northlands Park. Fletcher Kent looks at the future of the sport in Alberta.
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