Rally turns into a celebration for harness race supporters

A protest in downtown Cloverdale unexpectedly turned into a celebration last Friday, as members of the harness racing industry and their supporters heard the news they’d been pressing for – a longer racing season will be restored in 2012.

Thumbs up: Freda and David Woolley

A protest in downtown Cloverdale unexpectedly turned into a celebration last Friday, as members of the harness racing industry and their supporters heard the news they’d been pressing for – a longer racing season will be restored in 2012.

Harness Racing B.C. organized the rally outside Fraser Downs in a bid to step up pressure on the company that owns the racetrack and casino.

Despite pleas from the harness racing industry, Great Canadian Gaming Corp. has so far stood firm behind the six-month racing season in effect this year.

But it appears lobbying efforts that included recent meetings with B.C. cabinet minister Shirley Bond and other government officials are having an impact.

“We have achieved the 10 month, two-days a week season,” Harness Racing B.C. CEO Doug McCallum said, adding details are still being worked out.

The former Surrey mayor received word shortly before the rally.

He was able to deliver the news in person to about 70 protesters and their supporters. Many carried signs and wore T-shirts pledging support for harness racing. Some owners brought along their race horses.

This week in Victoria, McCallum met with Bond, minister of public safety and solicitor general, B.C. Horse Racing Industry Management Committee chair Derek Sturko, and B.C. Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch officials.

“Negotiations on the details are going very well,” he said.

Harness Racing B.C. represents standardbred breeders, owners, trainers and drivers. Breeders are already renewing breeding programs, thanks to the news, he said.

The industry also includes related businesses and services, from feed stores to veterinarians and farriers.

“What the government’s done in allowing us to race a little more, it’s encouraging an agricultural industry to keep jobs, first of all, and to create new jobs and build the industry.”

According to those who make a living along the backstretch at Fraser Downs, the split, six-month racing season has been a disaster, forcing some breeders to halt breeding programs and owners to pull up stakes.

The industry tends to be a family affair, running through third and fourth generations. Breeders and owners like Brent Currie left Cloverdale for Ontario when the harness racing season at Fraser Downs ended, splitting up his family, McCallum said.Follow the Cloverdale Reporter on Twitter and Facebook. View our print edition online.

Just Posted

UPDATE: Rockslide keeps Coquihalla northbound lane closed

Highway 5 is closed in one direction.

Meet the Retrogrades: Delta school administrators’ band moving from cover songs to original material

Original songs “the next level” for band with a solid repertoire of music from more than 40 artists

Langley’s Tardi takes gold in junior national curling competition

Four local boys are on their way to Scotland after winning their second Canadian title in as many years.

ZYTARUK: Only the truth, and nothing but

Lying hurts all of us. You, me, them. All of us.

Langley junior curling champs defend title in Quebec

Defeat of their cousin’s team has secured Tardi brothers and the rest of the team in today’s finals.

REPLAY: B.C. this week in video

In case you missed it, here’s a look at replay-worthy highlights from across the province this week

5 to start your day

Wind storm causes weekend power outages, thousands join women’s marches, and more

A look at potential Canadian nominees for this year’s Oscars

The nominations are to be revealed Tuesday morning for the 90th Academy Awards

B.C. expert weighs in on why kids are eating Tide pods for fun

Why are kids taking part in something completely pointless yet so risky?

Philadelphia Eagles headed to Super Bowl

After routing the Minnesota Vikings 38-7, they will face Tom Brady and the New England Patriots

Heavy snowfall closes Mount Washington on Vancouver Island

Road to ski resort deemed unsafe, vehicles buried under more than three feet of snow

VIDEO: Dramatic video shows return of rescued B.C. snowboarders

Two snowboarders were rescued near Rossland, B.C. on Sunday after being lost overnight.

Tom Brady leads Patriots back to Super Bowl, top Jaguars 24-20

New England to face winner of Sunday night’s game between Minnesota and Philadelphia on Feb. 4

Coquihalla drivers prepare for snow

Wintry conditions persist, with snow warnings for Coquihalla

Most Read