Once again, the horsemen of Fraser Downs are fighting for their livelihood. Horse racing in Cloverdale has been a way of life to many for the last 40 years, people who live locally and support the community, but things are changing.
This year has been an even harder struggle: Mother Nature has forced the cancellation of eight race days to date, and our race season has already been reduced to just six months, or 61 race days to be precise, by Great Canadian Gaming Corporation (GCGC), the track operator.
That’s a loss of more than 10 per cent of our potential income and it puts families and individuals into desperate times.
GCGC has forced us from a once sustainable industry into seasonal work with very little concern as to the financial impact on the horsemen as well as all the others that rely on us, including blacksmiths, feed stores, hay farmers, veterinarians and local businesses. Without a viable income, we tend to not send as much work to them.
Our fight is with GCGC who we have approached and asked for an extension to our meet. We have requested to race three weekends beyond our scheduled finish date to no avail. They have declined all suggestions we have presented. They have, however, offered one alternative, one which they know is not an option because of the added stress it would place on the horses, the very athletes that we work so hard to maintain. They would like to see us race three days a week in March to make up for lost days and revenue, but due to the downsized industry we just don’t have the horse population that was once here.
There is no reason why horse racing cannot continue in the community of Cloverdale, other than GCGC’s poor partnership with the horsemen. How quickly they forget that it was us, the horsemen, that flooded City Hall to fight to have the casino approved with promises of great benefits when in reality, the casino couldn’t care less if we survive.