Lethbridge’s Rocky Mountain Turf Club was all set for its first horse race on Saturday.
But on Friday, they got word it couldn’t go ahead.
“We were approved to go, then we found out we had a test that needed to be taken and required 48 hours,” said Rocky Mountain Turf Club CEO Max Gibb. “And we couldn’t qualify enough and any of our people in that period of time.”
The information came from Horse Race Alberta, a private not-for-profit corporation that manages industry self-regulation. Gibb says they had received the exemption to go ahead on May 7 but did not know they needed a negative PCR COVID-19 test until Friday.
The negative PCR test that is required can take up to 72 hours to receive a result.
“You won’t get it in that short of time,” said general manager of Rocky Mountain Turf Club Rose Rossi. “It was kind of an unrealistic thing. If necessary, that’s fine. We just needed more time to follow through.”
“It was very disappointing and very frustrating for all the horsemen,” said Gibb.
They say that all other guidelines had been followed, including masking, physical distancing and a two-week quarantine for jockeys.
“Transparency is transparency,” said Rossi.
“If we had notice when we were given the exemption back on May 7, all would have been done.”
Gibb told Global News that over 300 owners and trainers, 90 horses and 15 jockeys are now waiting until May 22, when they hope they can open.
“We’re confident we can go next weekend but we’re sad we couldn’t go this weekend,” he said.
Laurina Bugeaud has been involved in the horse racing industry for 35 years. She’s a jockey and was excited to hit the track on Saturday.
She was sad to hear about this weekend’s postponement.
“I’m disappointed,” she said. “I know we’ve all been struggling so much to keep things going that it wasn’t entirely unexpected, but of course, it was disappointing.”
In a statement to Global News, Alberta Health said: “Professional sports organizations that have received an exemption can continue, provided protocols are strictly followed. Information about the 72-hour testing requirement is available online (top of page five). We know these restrictions are disruptive to Albertans and businesses, but we must bend down the curve one last time.”
Alberta Health added that guidance for the rodeos document was last updated on April 15.
With the weekend behind them, everyone involved at Rocky Mountain Turf Club is eager and ready to hit the track on May 22.
“I’m very excited,” said Bugeaud. “I really hope it goes because I’m ready this year.”