Truro Raceway ‘bombshell’

Harry Sullivan
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Truro Raceway’s last card set for Sunday

Truro Raceway woes

By Harry Sullivan


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.”

Twitter: tdnharry





Organizations: Nova Scotia Provincial Exhibition Commission

Geographic location: Truro Horsemen

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Recent comments

  • dance me loose Port Hawk.
    July 12, 2013 - 19:36

    this is truly a sad day for harness racing not only in Truro,but for the rest off the maritimes as well.If more people. were educated of the fact that harness racing is an exciting sport where you can take your family,visit the stables,talk to breeders,owners,trainers.drivers.Take 20 dollars with you and the chances of you leaving with 120 dollars is always much greater than other types off gambelling unless you are a professional card player.Each trainer probally pays a feed store 1800 dollars a year per horse just for feed alone per horse not including hay,bedding,linaments,shoeing,etc.This all goes into the local economy ,if a trainer has 10 horses 18000/yr. just for feed.

  • mr. ed.
    July 11, 2013 - 17:31

    such is life... the earth never stops turning.

  • fred penner
    July 11, 2013 - 08:30

    I'm guessing the major influence on its decline is not lack of local support but mismanagement and poor marketing. It is my opinion that the entire facility should be take over and privatized. The outer buildings sold of to finance the debt and the area leased out to the Exhibition and various events whenever needed. Under a private eye, mismanagement, higher productivity, increased efficiency and better over all operation would be the result. Plus, if a private venture went down the toilet it is not the tax payer left holding the bag like all of these other bloody government Socialist "make work" projects paid for by our tax dollars..

    • Shawn Worthen
      July 11, 2013 - 16:17

      Looks like Fred Penner hit the nail right on the head, don't know this guy but people should start listening to him. Best plain i have heard in a long time.

  • john
    July 10, 2013 - 20:41

    the people of truro should help,support a track

  • Graham Mc cann
    July 10, 2013 - 18:43

    This is a very sad , sad day for everyone who loves harness racing ,for the owners ,trainers,drivers and grooms and the horses. As a child i drove with my father and mother to the races in Truro all the way from Upper Tantallon twice a week to see the races .We didn't have much money but this was the one thing my parents truly enjoyed and spent some money on . My old boss Frankie Daniels would turn over in his grave hearing of this news . GOD BLESS ALL INVOLVED.

  • Shawn Worthen
    July 10, 2013 - 18:33

    This is a sad day for harness racing in Nova Scotia, i feel for the men and women who depend on racing horses day in and day out. When you listen to Danny he is 100 % right on how much it cost to feed those animals and for those who have done racing for there whole entire life. What will they all do, there is not enough room in PEI for them all to race, and the horse that aren't that great what will happen to them, we all know what will happen to them and it isn' the proper way to handle things, the Exhibition should have gave more warning then they have, for both human and animal.I wish them all the best and now maybe when another group comes into Nova Scotia to try to build a new race track in Halifax, maybe just maybe the Truro Exhibition will keep there nose out of it. What will happen to the tele theater and simulcast money, where will that money go, i would like to know how much that brought in every year, i beleive it would be 13% of every dollar bet. That must of accumulate quite a bit of money from those dollars bet.

  • Joseph
    July 10, 2013 - 17:30

    This is devastating news to the harness racing community, as well as the Truro area. I hope it can be revived, if not now, someday.

  • PJ
    July 10, 2013 - 15:36

    It is sad that the racing will not continue. However, the costs associated with track operations must not be close to being met by the racing participants and fans. To make assumptions that the track should be "rolling in money" is just that, an assumption. Are the commissions books open for the public to see? Learning the real cost to the commission could be an eye-opening experience. Support is already coming from Masstown Market Wilson Fuels Top Of The Turn Diner Truro Horsemen's Club United Tote Whittenburg Nursery for the Grand Circuit Week based on the raceway's web page.

  • Cynical
    July 10, 2013 - 15:07

    Good riddance.

  • Sarah
    July 10, 2013 - 12:15

    This is truly a sad day ~ so many people will be out of jobs, horses will probably be put down because people can no longer afford to take care of them and barn cats will die with no one feeding them. With better management this probably wouldn't have happened! Where does all the money from the Agrodome, 4-H barns, stall rent, activities that go on at the track etc Go??? As a whole this place should be rolling in money! Why does it cost so much to remove manure from the track? I bet if we saw a break down of the finicals we would be outraged....

    • Homer jay
      July 10, 2013 - 13:51

      Sarah, I bet you are correct. If the public saw how mismanaged this facility is it would outrage us all. A commission with no intention of improving, promoting or handling anything positive to do with this industry. I believe Bruce Kennedy wrote an excellent opinion article in the spring to that effect, it truly is a shame more people with a head on there shoulders were not involved.

  • Allison
    July 10, 2013 - 11:48

    This is such a sin! A once great industry has been carelessly driven into the ground. I hope there is a way for Harness people to collaborate and fight for their Industry.!