© TC Media
Amherst and area horsemen are disappointed with the announced closure of the Truro Raceway.
AMHERST – A veteran Amherst harness racer is hoping the closure of the Truro Raceway won’t be permanent.
Doug Polley Jr. had three horses at Truro Raceway and raced there weekly, but was not surprised by Wednesday’s announcement that Sunday’s race card will be the last.
“We’d heard some rumblings that something was up. I took my horses home the other day from there,” Polley Jr. said upon learning the news. “I don’t think the track itself was losing money, I think it had more to do with the exhibition commission.”
The Nova Scotia Provincial Exhibition Commission told horsemen that water and power to the stables would be turned off by Aug. 15 and all horses must be vacated by that time.
“It seems as though harness racing is always in trouble. It seems we’re always on the brink,” Polley Jr. said. “This is going to be a big loss to horsemen in the area. It really limits where we can race.”
For Polley Jr. it means he will race in either Saint John, N.B. or at Prince Edward Island’s two tracks.
He thinks moving to Sunday afternoon racing was a big mistake. He said there were pretty good crowds at the track when racing was held on Thursdays and Saturdays. He believes moving to either a Saturday or Sunday night card would help if the raceway is reopened.
“I’m hearing there are two or three businessmen trying to work something out with the board. Hopefully they’ll work it out and we can get back to racing,” he said.
Exhibition general manager Roger McCallum said the harness racing activities are being shut down entirely because of the commission’s crippling financial situation. Without a way to pay future bills, a decision was made by the board on Monday to case activities at the track.
The commission has previously reported that it is approximately $1 million in debt.
Amherst’s Frank Balcom, who chaired the Maritime Harness Racing Commission for nine years, said he was shocked and surprised with the announcement.
“It’s a terrible day for harness racing in Nova Scotia,” said Balcom, who has owned horses that raced in Truro. “It’s the only track on the mainland. There are smaller tracks in Inverness and North Sydney, but this was the last track we had after Sackville Downs closed a number of years ago.”
Balcom is hoping something can be done to save the track. He said the province has supported the track through the purse pool, but like everything else has been reduced by government cutbacks.
He would like to see the Truro Raceway follow the example of both Summerside and Charlottetown that include racinos operated by the Atlantic Lottery Corporation.
Steve Morton, president of the Truro Harness Horse Owners’ Association, said efforts are underway through discussions with the provincial government to try to find a solution that would enable the horsemen to at least continue using the raceway barns and track for training purposes.
The decision involves only activities related to harness racing. All other track activities related to the Exhibition itself and the Dutch Mason Blues Festival are to proceed as scheduled.
(with files from Harry Sullivan, TC Media)