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Racing On Hold In Alberta

Published: March 26, 2021 10:01 am ET

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A quick glance at the 2021 race date calendar indicates that Alberta's harness racing industry was slated to resume activity this weekend. That launch will have to wait, according to officials.

Paul Ryneveld, Managing Director of Racing for Century Downs and Century Mile, told Trot Insider that racing is on hold due to the province's health restrictions and guidelines.

"The Government did not move us to Stage 3 so there is no racing until we receive word from the Government that we are allowed to do so," said Ryneveld. "We have requested cancellation of the 28th and 30th and will be cancelling on a weekly basis moving forward with the hopes that we can race at some point."

Ryneveld told Global News earlier this week that all 800 employees at the two racino locations have been laid off since before Christmas. He's hopeful the province will give the green light to resume racing soon, but couldn't predict when that news would come. One thing is for sure: Ryneveld is confident that racing can be conducted safely.

“We were able to manage with the protocols a very safe situation last year,” Ryneveld said. “We don’t know of any cases that arose due to horse racing or the activity at our facilities, and there were no outbreaks. It was safe from the standpoint that we were taking every precaution possible to limit any potential spread of COVID.”

A notice posted to social media by Horse Racing Alberta on Thursday provided the following update:

"Alberta horse racing industry representatives met [Wednesday] to resume the COVID-19 Response Planning Working Group. The Working Group is comprised of stakeholders from the horsemen’s organizations and racetracks and they discussed the challenges facing the industry and possible solutions to the extended restrictions for racing.

"The delay of reopening casinos and racetracks under Step 3 has caused uncertainty for breeders, owners, trainers, stable staff and racing administration. The industry has made requests to government and Alberta Health Services to be allowed to operate in a bubble, similar to other sports like hockey and curling. To this end, Alberta Standardbred Horse Association has invited Alberta Health Services to tour the backstretch at Century Downs Racetrack and Casino so they can demonstrate the safety protocols so they can return to racing.

"The next conference call is scheduled for Wednesday, March 31. Until then, we want to thank everyone who is working diligently to care for the horses at farms and racetracks. This is an essential service and we are all grateful for the dedication shown to the horses while we wait for the 2021 season to begin."

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