Harness racers energized by return of longer season

More details have been announced about the upcoming harness racing season at Fraser Downs.

More details have been announced about the upcoming harness racing season at Fraser Downs.

Live racing returns Friday, Oct. 7, ushering in the fall racing calendar with 31 race days. Twelve of those will be Friday night race cards, and one Friday matinee – the Nov. 11 Breeders Classic. There will also be six Saturday race days, 11 Sunday races and the Dec. 26 Boxing day matinee.

The details come following an earlier announcement that the 10-month season horsemen and their supporters had been calling for will be reinstated in 2012.

The provincial government has also agreed to reinstate six of 12 conditional dates in the fall 2011 racing calendar.

Those Saturday races fall on Oct. 8, 15, 22 and 29, and on Nov. 5 and 15, bringing the total number of race days this year to 76.

Next year’s season will see two race days per week, with a two-month summer break. The schedule is still being finalized.

The longer season means thousands of jobs in the Fraser Valley and across the province have been saved, Doug McCallum, CEO of Harness Racing B.C., said. The association represents harness racing drivers, standardbred horse breeders and others.

McCallum said the backstretch at Fraser Downs  Racetrack and Casino is brimming with new energy and ideas, as word spreads that the longer season has been reinstated.

There has already been a 10 to 15 per cent increase in the standardbred breeding industry, he said.

Soon, the association plans to start encouraging new drivers and trainers to come out to B.C. for the 10-month season.