Horse racing in New Brunswick uncertain following the end of a lease

Click to play video: 'Long history of harness racing in Saint John may be coming to end'
Long history of harness racing in Saint John may be coming to end
WATCH: Harness racers in Saint John are speaking out after hearing that the Saint John Exhibition Association is not renewing their lease at the end of the year. Zack Power has more. – Oct 12, 2022

Saturday’s race at the Saint John Exhibition may be the last for harness racing in the province, following a move by the Exhibition Association to not re-up the lease with Horse Racing New Brunswick.

The park itself has been around the Saint John area for well over a century and has included horse racing in its events since that time. According to the Exhibition Association, the time is right for other events to move into the space.

“The Board of Directors has decided not to enter into another lease agreement with Horse Racing N.B.,” Judy Martin said in a statement to Global News.

“The Board of Directors has decided to position itself to be able to explore opportunities that may have the potential to make better use of the lands and facilities thus providing a greater service to the greater Saint John community.”

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For those participating in horse racing in Saint John, it will mean that they’ll have to travel outside of town to continue racing. But without a track aligned for the 2023 season, it’ll mean that when the lease expires at the end of the year, they’ll have to take their horses elsewhere.

“I won’t leave until Dec. 31. They want us to leave before Dec. 31, but I’m not leaving until Dec. 31,” horse-racer Janice Hubbard said.

“They can’t take this away. There has to be a fight. Somebody has to fight them.”

Hubbard has been racing horses for years, and her family has been around the track for a significant amount of time. After moving from Ontario, she spent tens of thousands on horses and will now have to look at racing in another province.

“If they can’t get along with Harness Racing New Brunswick, then that is another story. We’re the horsemen; we invest the money into these horses. I bought these horses in from Ontario and invested nearly $30,000 in each horse.”

“It’s a business for me.”

Many horse racing fans have criticized the move throughout the week, citing horse racing’s history in the province.

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“It was like a punch in the gut,” said Scott Bernard, host of the History of EPR Podcast.

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“The business has kind of gone down. The popularity is still there; the betting side really isn’t there anymore. I wasn’t shocked by it — definitely saddened.”

Bernard noted that, like him, many who’ve enjoyed watching the races will continue to be fans of the sport and that many in the industry will continue to look for other options to race horses.

Global News reached out to Horse Racing New Brunswick but did not receive a comment by deadline.

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