Alberta Downs could close before 2015 season

  • Dec. 3, 2014 4:30 p.m.

Lacombe’s local horseracing track, Alberta Downs, has been denied any racing dates in 2015 by Horseracing Alberta.

Early this month, shortly after the racing season at Alberta Downs wrapped up this year, Alberta Downs Owner Robert (Bob) Allen was contacted by Horse Racing Alberta, the branch of the Alberta Government that governs horseracing within the province.

He was then presented with a letter stating Alberta Downs would not be given any race dates for the 2015 season.

Allen said he was shocked by the decision, especially because he already had received draft dates from HRA earlier.

“I can’t believe they did this to me,” said Allen.

The only reason HRA gave for the decisions was that it was, “In the best interests of racing.” Allen did not agree.

Before Alberta Downs, harness racing in Alberta was on the verge of extinction, argued Allen. He added in the six years Alberta Downs has been operating, it has built up a strong fan base and clientele.

“We provided a place for them to race,” said Allen.

Allen went on to say that he has heard few complaints with how Alberta Downs runs and heard little support by those who frequent the track for HRA’s decision.

Alberta Downs is the only one-mile track in the province and all of Western Canada, said Allen.

He added the track size is something he likes to brag about because of this and doesn’t understand why HRA would want to stop anyone from racing there.

This past year, Alberta Downs has had some financial difficulties.

Allen said he had to make $500,000 worth of safety upgrades to the facility this year in order to run and also was billed $420,000 by Lacombe County for the paving of the road to the race track.

In spite of these financial setbacks, Allen said Alberta Downs still saw an incredibly successful season of racing, which makes him even more confused about HRA’s decision.

Allen said that 59 days of successful racing were held at Alberta Downs and the track even hosted a great super finals event on Nov. 1st.

“We got through it,” said Allen. “We had the best races, some unbelievable races.”

Allen said if he had to guess, he would say that HRA’s reasoning for not giving Alberta Downs any race dates in the 2015 season has to do with budget concerns. He added that Calgary has a new horse track coming online in 2015 and that may have made Alberta Downs redundant in the eyes of HRA.

While Allen admitted there is the possibility that Alberta Downs could receive rates dates for a later season another year, it would be incredibly difficult to start the track back up again after it had not been operation for a season.

He added that he is not the only one hurt by this decision, saying local horse trainers, owners and racers now have to find other venues to house and train their animals, forcing many to go to Edmonton or further to do so.

Allen said he plans to appeal the decision by HRA and is looking for support from those who would like to see Alberta Downs continue to operate.

Horse Racing Alberta did not respond to attempts by the Lacombe Express to contact them before press time.