Horsemen optimistic over start up of live racing season

Harry Sullivan
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BIBLE HILL – There’s a cold wind blowing across the track at the Truro Raceway as the harness drivers run their horses through practice paces.

The Truro Raceway track is a busy place these days as drivers and trainers once again take to their sulkies to ready their horses for the start of the live racing season, which begins on Sunday. 

In the nearby barns, however, the smiles are warm, the mood optimistic, as trainers and drivers go through the motions of preparing for a new race season.

Live racing begins Sunday and after an especially long and chilly winter, horses and humans alike are antsy to get started.

“Everybody’s pretty excited to get back racing for sure. It’s been a long winter,” said driver Ryan Ellis. “We’ve got quite a long shutdown here so everybody’s looking forward to it, getting some money for feed and what not. The bills keep going all winter, even when we’re not racing.”

Other drivers agreed.

“Myself, I’m very excited. I just bought a bunch of new horses and basically I can’t wait until it starts on Sunday,” said horse owner Chris Covin. “All hepped up,” he said. “I think it’s going to be a good year.”

Longtime veteran owner/driver Bernard McCallum also shared that optimism.

“It’s pretty good,” he said, of the general mood around the stables. “Everybody’s excited, I think, to get started back. It’s always exciting when the weather gets better. Like, all winter it wasn’t very exciting around here with the cold weather but, everybody’s starting to come around now, getting ready to start up.”

Rookie owner/trainer Kyle Gillis, 16, said he has also been sensing an optimistic mood around the track.

“I hear all positive things,” he said. “It’s going to be a good startup I think. Everyone seems happy to be starting up racing again.”

The last live racing at the track took place on Dec. 20, following a brief period last summer when the facility’s future was put in doubt after management announced that it was shutting down because of financial problems.

‘I think it’s going to be a good year’

Those issues were initially resolved on a temporary basis until January, when Minister of Agriculture Keith Colwell stepped in to say the province was taking possession of the Nova Scotia Provincial Exhibition, which also owns the raceway.

Colwell has since said he plans to put a management system in place to make both the entire facility a long-term profitable venture.

And that is good news from the perspective of the horsemen who spoke with the Truro Daily News.

“I think it’s going to help a lot,” Covin said, of the provincial take over.  “I just think it’s more secure for us.”

Covin said he has been sensing a lot more “positive” outlook between drivers and trainers alike.

“There’s a lot more talk that it’s going to be a better year, he said. “I think you are going to see more horses come from other tracks.”

Ellis agreed, saying he was encouraged by a speech made by Colwell during a visit the minister made to a recent horsemen’s banquet.

“He sound’s pretty optimistic that he is going to turn things around and make things improve,” Ellis said.

Twitter: @tdnharry

Organizations: Nova Scotia Provincial Exhibition, Truro Daily News

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