Truro Raceway’s last card set for Sunday
By Harry Sullivan
TRURO DAILY NEWS
BIBLE HILL - A harness racing tradition that dates back 138 years in the Truro area is slated to come to an end this weekend.
The board of the Nova Scotia Provincial Exhibition (NSPE) Commission voted on Monday to shut down harness racing at Truro Raceway following Sunday’s race card because of a crippling financial situation that has haunted the organization for years.
“The bombshell was yesterday,” Steve Morton, president of the Truro Harness Horse Owners Association,” said of the news. “Everyone’s very concerned and you have to realize that there’s 200 jobs here (approximately) and there are people’s livelihoods here.”
Horsemen have also received written confirmation that the water and power to the stables will be shut off by Aug. 15 and all horses must be vacated by that time.
NSPE general manager Roger McCallum said the harness racing activities are being shut down solely because of the commission’s financial situation. The commission has previously reported that it is about $1 million in the red and although recent efforts have been made to prevent that number from growing, there has not been enough revenue flow to reduce the overall debt.
“Financially at the moment we have to just discontinue the races,” McCallum said. “Financially it’s just not there to pay and it would not be right (to continue the racing activity) and not be able to pay for it.”
Without revenue to pay about 15 individuals employed by the NSPE in the grandstands and on the grounds, along with other expenses, the decision to shut things down could not be put off any longer, he said.
“This is not something that happened in the last year or the last two years. This is an ongoing thing and it has just been going downhill. And, at the moment, the place can no longer financially employ the people and keep paying out what it has to keep paying out.”
With no track to race or even train on and the stables closed to their animals, however, horse trainers and owners are left wondering not only about the future of their industry but where their animals will be housed.
“You have to realize, we’re dealing with animals here, right?” Morton said. “That’s not a whole lot of time for 200 or 300 horses to find new homes,” he said of the Aug. 15 deadline.
“We’re coming into the summer, our biggest months, and we just get a letter saying we’re done live racing on Sunday and we can’t go on the track,” said prominent and veteran trainer/racer, Danny Romo, 60, who said the news was akin to the sounding of a death knell for the local harness industry.
“I’m at the age now… if Truro shuts down, that’s it for me,” he said. “I don’t have a clue (what he will do). I’ve been doing this all my life. That’s all I’ve ever done, is race horses.”
Besides the jobs that stand to be lost, Romo and other horsemen say the harness industry contributes millions of dollars annually into both the local and Maritime community when all the spinoff expenses are considered.
Romo said the feed bill for his stables alone amounts to about $14,000 per year, plus another $5,000 for hay and an equal amount or more for bedding (straw).
Then there are tack supplies from local retailers, truck and trailer purchases, fuel and more.
“It’s going to be big,” added fellow trainer Darren Crowe of the economic fallout.
“I mean there’s huge spinoff from this,” said Crowe, who manages a stable of 16 horses. “It goes right down to the convenient store down the street where everybody stops for coffee.”
The end of harness racing on Sunday will also mean a cancellation of the Atlantic Grand Circuit Week activities planned for the following weekend. It will also have a negative impact on the sale of yearling horses in the fall.
“Today it’s very bleak,” Crowe said. “What happens tomorrow I don’t know.”