After more than a century of harness racing, there is speculation Saint John’s Exhibition Park may have hosted its last race.
The final race card of the season was cancelled and a recent study found that the facility is not a suitable location for a racino.
Gilles Barrieau has been working around the barns and race track at Exhibition Park since he was 15 years old, but now he’s uncertain about his future as an accomplished harness racer.
“There’s absolutely nobody left and it’s gotten so bad that I just don’t know how this place is going to get revived again, actually,” says Barrieau.
In past years, hundreds of horses filled the barns at the Exhibition Park Raceway, but today many of the barns sit empty.
Some horseman have moved to other communities while others have left the industry altogether.
The Atlantic Lottery Corporation looked at the possibility of locating a racino at Exhibition Park, but found no viable business case.
“Unless there is some plan that I haven’t seen, then as far as I’m concerned, it’s just a matter of time and harness racing will no longer be in the City of Saint John,” says Tory MLA Glen Tait.
Tait has been a long-time supporter of the industry, but says neither government nor business has the money needed to keep harness racing going.
“It would take a huge amount of investment to bring it up to where it should be, to attract people, because it’s not going to attract anybody the way it is today, and I don’t know any business or anybody that’s going to invest that kind of money,” he says.
Tait says hope for a racino in Saint John was quashed when a decision was made to build a casino in Moncton.
Barrieau says he is considering joining local horseman who have moved to Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, or Maine to make a living.
“If I was a betting man, I would think things are not going to happen here again,” he says.
“I hope they do, but I’m keeping my options open for the spring.”
by Mike Cameron, reprinted with permission from http://atlantic.ctvnews.ca/