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ASHA Update On Alberta Industry

Published: March 29, 2020 10:24 am ET

Last Comment: March 29, 2020 12:30 pm ET | 1 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

Alberta Standardbred Horse Association President Bill Andrew has written an open letter to members of the province’s Standardbred racing industry. In the letter he explains what the readjusted, tentative plans are for Alberta harness racing and related activities in light of the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

Andrew explained that ASHA has discussed the situation with officials from Century Casinos officials and that there is a “high probability” that the 2020 racing schedule will change in terms of when and where live Standardbred racing will be conducted in the province.

As Andrews explained, as it stands right now, Century will extend the 2020 Thoroughbred meet at Century Mile until October 25, 2020. Standardbred racing’s switch from Century Downs to Century Mile is now planned to occur shortly after October 25.

Andrews said that the Thoroughbred meet will most likely be delayed by a month or two due to COVID-19 fallout (with a likely start date in mid-June or early July). He continued that, if government go-ahead is received, live Standardbred racing could begin earlier than that.

ASHA held a board meeting this past week and voted unanimously to distribute purse money from the two cancelled cards in March and any extra funds in our purse account to the owners of horses who have raced at Century Mile/Century Downs since January 1, 2020 both in overnights and successful qualifiers. The money will divided equally on a per-horse basis and given to the current trainer of record for distribution. We expect that each horse will be allocated approximately $400.

In terms of breeders, Andrews explained that Century Downs has committed to work with ASHA so it can host the organization’s annual yearling sale at the track where we Standardbreds are currently racing at the time. In all likelihood, according to Andrew, the ASHA Yearling Sale will be conducted at Century Downs in late September.

Complete information, including that relating to stakes payment, assistance to horsepeople in need, and more, is covered in Andrew’s open letter, the contents of which appear below.


A LETTER FROM THE ASHA PRESIDENT TO THE MEMBERSHIP

Dear friends,

As you follow the news both at home and away from home you will be very aware of the COVID-19 viral pandemic that is affecting the health of the world and the economy of many countries. Alberta was not given a pass on the pandemic and we find ourselves with over 540 identified cases of COVID-19 with the numbers growing daily. The Government of Alberta has reacted by closing most businesses including racinos and by limiting gatherings to 15 people as well as mandating a safe distance between people (two metres) all in an effort to slow down the spread of the disease. The government has enacted emergency powers requiring a lockdown of seniors’ homes and care facilities as well as mandatory 14-day quarantine for all arrivals to Alberta.

From the steps that have taken place over the last few days it is clear that the medical community believes we are in for a battle against the spread of COVID-19. There is currently no clear message on when to expect the pandemic to start to die off but clearly it hinges on:

1) Our ability to stop casual transmission of the virus through physical contact or transferring the virus in droplets through sneezing or coughing.
2) The ability of the virus to survive in warm weather.

Until the spread of the virus slows down do not expect to see Century Casino and Century Downs reopen. My guess, for what it is worth, is that we are looking at another month to two months of shutdown. Other shutdown racing jurisdictions are talking re-opening anywhere from mid May to mid June. The re-launch of racing is in the hands of the government and medical experts who will want it to be safe before resuming normal activities involving fans.

We had a discussion with Century this week and the high probability that the 2020 racing schedule could change in terms of when we race and where we race. On behalf of ASHA I gave Century our commitment to play the hand we are dealt in 2020 recognizing that they have worked to keep our backstretch open during this pandemic, that they have worked in co-operation with us to increase all forms of Standardbred handle over their first three years of operation that they currently, like many of you, are operating with minimal amounts of revenue coming in.

As some of you already know, Century will extend the 2020 Thoroughbred meet at Century Mile until October 25, 2020. Our switch from Century Downs to Century Mile will occur shortly after October 25. It is expected that the Thoroughbred meet will start at least one and probably two months late with a likely start date in mid-June or early July as they have horses currently stuck in the US and a Century Mile in-training horse population that is much lower than normal. If given the go ahead by government we can begin our meet earlier than that. The change in venue in September and October will impact our stakes locations and we will work to get a revised stakes schedule out as soon as we believe we can finalize one. Currently we do believe the timing of two-year-old stakes will be impacted although the location for some stakes will change. It makes sense that the schedule for our three-year-old Alberta Sires Stakes and other major stakes will change. To the extent we can, we will keep the major stakes finals including the Super Finals in their current locations.

For our breeders, Century Downs has committed to work with us to host our ASHA Yearling Sale at the track where we are racing. This means that we will, in all likelihood, have the ASHA Sale at Century Downs in Calgary in late September.

Century Downs has been very co-operative with us by continuing to operate the backstretch and track as a training centre. This will continue as long as we follow the guidelines on social distancing, hygiene and limiting gatherings. We have seen at other tracks where a positive COVID-19 test can shut down a racetrack so please if you feel ill stay home.

On Tuesday ASHA held a Board meeting and voted unanimously to distribute purse money from the two cancelled cards in March and any extra funds in our purse account to the owners of horses who have raced at Century Mile/Century Downs since January 1, 2020 both in overnights and successful qualifiers. The money will divided equally on a per-horse basis and given to the current trainer of record for distribution. We expect that each horse will be allocated approximately $400.

We are working to secure additional relief funding from the Government of Alberta and we will advise you of any progress. Also, we encourage all breeders, owners, trainers, grooms and other ASHA members to read about the Federal and Provincial assistance programs that involve wage subsidies and business loans. Most need applications and Colleen and Fred have volunteered to help those in need of assistance with the applications.

The Board of ASHA also voted unanimously to defer stakes payments to later in the year. This information will be on the ASHA website. At ASHA we have a small rainy day fund to assist horsepeople in difficult circumstances. If you find yourself up against it financially and/or emotionally please let Fred or Colleen know and we will see what can do to help.

Our Standardbred community has always come together to work through tough times as God knows we've been through many. We will continue to work together and battle through this one as well. Please stay safe, please practice the procedures to avoid contracting and spreading the virus and please go home and quarantine if you feel ill.

We all look forward to the day in the near future when we can bring our sport back to our many fans and supporters.

Take care,
Bill Andrew


March 29, 2020 - 12:30 pmThank you Mr. Andrews for a

terry gudz SAID...

Thank you Mr. Andrews for a frank and straight shooting update of the present state of disarray in Alberta racing.


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