For Doug McCallum, countless children awestruck by the horses at Fraser Downs Racetrack and Casino last Saturday (Aug. 11) were a welcome sight.
The CEO of Harness Racing BC was hoping to attract more families to the track’s second-annual open house, which signalled the start of the standardbred harness racing season. The long line-ups for everything from barn tours to jogging cart rides around the track proved that goal was achieved.
“We have said we need to promote Fraser Downs a lot more to families and that’s why we started the open house last year. And this year it was even more popular with the kids,” McCallum said.
“Their eyes just light up when they see the horses.”
The event also featured demonstrations, such as how to care for horses, and a craft area for kids where they painted horseshoes.
The fall harness racing season officially kicks off this weekend, with races Aug. 18 and 19 starting at 12:45 p.m.
Fraser Downs is back to a 10-month season (82 days of racing) after seeing a controversial shortened season last year, one that may have threatened thousands of jobs in the Fraser Valley and beyond had the change stuck.
“They only wanted to give us six months on, six months off. The six that we’re off, everyone [involved in the industry] leaves and they don’t come back,” McCallum said.
The Great Canadian Gaming Corporation wanted its racetracks – Fraser Downs and Vancouver’s Hastings Park (which features thoroughbred racing) – to avoid competing for customers.
The extended racing season was reinstated after protests, rallies and meetings between Harness Racing BC, B.C. government officials, the Great Canadian Camping Corp. and the BC Gaming Policy Enforcement Branch took place last spring.
— with files from Jennifer Lang