Saskatchewan horse racing community in shock
On March 12, 2021 Prairieland Park in Saskatoon, SK announced the permanent cancellation of Thoroughbred racing at Marquis Downs. At the same time, Prairieland confirmed partnership talks with Professional Soccer League.
“Prairieland Park is excited to be a part of the discussion/negotiation with the Canadian Premier Soccer League (CPL) and Living Sky Sports and Entertainment to bring Saskatchewan’s first, and only, professional soccer league to Saskatoon,” stated the Prairieland Park press release.
“At the same time the Board of Directors of Prairieland Park has come to the difficult decision to permanently cancel Thoroughbred racing at Marquis Downs after a 50-year relationship with the sport.”
The track at Marquis Downs is the only such racing venue in the province. This announcement came shortly after the Prairieland Park February 25, 2021 press release stating that Thoroughbred racing would be cancelled for the 2021 season.
“The decision to end Thoroughbred horse racing was not come to lightly; however, the opportunity presented by CPL and Living Sky Sports will help lead Prairieland into the future, and the board felt it was the time to transition the track space at Marquis Downs to accommodate this new venture,” states Prairieland Park.
“The Board recognizes the financial pressures felt by industry members in the wake of the announcement to end Thoroughbred Horse Racing at Marquis Downs, and will offer financial compensation in a one-time payment to horse owners. For each horse that ran in three or more races in 2019, Prairieland will pay $1,000 to the horse owner.”
In their February 25th press release, Prairieland Park stated that 76 percent of their professional jockeys come from the Caribbean; that it has seen a 90 percent reduction in its overall operations; net profit declined by 82 percent in 2020; and projected losses from the 2021 year will exceed $2,000,000. “Prairieland’s revenue is derived from trade shows, banquets, agricultural exhibitions, and the Exhibition itself. All of these business units have been unable to open due to COVID-19 and the effect of that has been a significant reduction in revenues.”
Prairieland Park further states that it “continues its negotiations with First Nations Groups to create and operate a First Nations Equine School and Indian Relay Racing Event at the Park. More details on this and other discussions will be released by Prairieland Park as those plans are developed.”
As a result of this decision, the Horse Racing Saskatchewan website states that horse racing in Saskatchewan, which contributes approximately $37 million per year to the Saskatchewan economy and creates 986 total paid jobs, is on the verge of collapse. They urge residents of the Province of Saskatchewan to sign a petition to help “support rural and indigenous racing/agricultural communities, our horses and an important part of the Heritage of Saskatchewan.”
On March 14, Global.ca News reported: “Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association Sask Division president Eddie Esquirol says many of the roughly 500 members of the local racing community were shocked and in disbelief after they heard the news. For many, their livelihood is their horses and racing, and it’s a 365-day investment and commitment.”
With files from Prairieland Park, Global.ca, and Horse Racing Saskatchewan.
Photo: Shutterstock/Dennis Donohue