Racing to continue “continue for the near future” commission says
Veteran harness racing driver and trainer Bernard ‘Pooker’ McCallum brushes down Putnam’s Kream Thursday in his stable at Truro Raceway. The Nova Scotia Provincial Exhibition Commission, which operates the raceway, announced Thursday racing would “continue for the near future” following a commission meeting Wednesday night. Matthew Veno – Truro Daily News
BIBLE HILL – Bernard McCallum was a happy man Thursday.
The 54-year-old Brookfield resident, who has been a harness racing trainer and driver for the past 37 years, woke up unsure of when, or if, he would get to race at his home track at Truro Raceway again.
But those fears were put to rest, for now at least, when the Nova Scotia Provincial Exhibition Commission, which operates the raceway, issued a press release stating racing would “continue for the near future.”
“It’s pretty good,” McCallum said. “It’s nice to know we’re going to be racing for the next little while.”
The half-mile oval is set to host a card Sunday at 1:30 p.m.
Thursday’s announcement is a temporary one, however, as there is no timetable for how long the 138-year-old track will continue operating.
The decision to continue racing was made at Wednesday’s commission meeting, which was the first since four new board members – Bruce Kennedy, Cameron MacEachern, Robert ‘Sonny’ Siteman and Gary Muise – were elected on Aug. 28. The Truro Harness Horse Owners Association (THHOA) still has money put up in July by the Nova Scotia Harness Racing Industry Association to keep the track operating after the commission announced it was shutting down the raceway due to its $1.1-million debt. With that funding in place, it was decided to continue racing while the commission, which was declared insolvent last month following a financial review, continues to work on a long-term solution.
“We’re working on it as we speak,” commission chair John Douglas said.
McCallum said the decision is a crucial one for the survival of the raceway. The horseman, more commonly known as ‘Pooker’ in racing circles, said shutting down for any length of time as this point in the season would do even greater damage.
“Once you shut down it’s hard to get people back,” he said. “People find other things to do.”
Steve Morton, president of the THHOA, agreed. He said shutting down would kill any momentum the raceway has gained since July’s announcement the track would close. Just weeks after that, the raceway experienced it’s best Atlantic Grand Circuit Week in several years with significant spikes in both attendance and betting.
“You don’t want to lose that fan base, the new people and all that momentum we’ve been able to gain,” he said. “Plus you want to give the owners an opportunity to earn money, pay stall rent and race their horses. Starting in April and closing in September would make no sense.”
Douglas said he feels a long-term solution to the commission’s woes is attainable.
“I think it can work,” he said. “We have four new board members who are very successful in their business endeavours in their lives and that experience is important.”
But he also added such a solution won’t happen at the drop of a hat.
“We didn’t get in this position overnight and we’re not going to get out of it overnight. But if we can struggle through this period and get a better business plan in place, we can go from there.”
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