Long history of harness racing in Saint John may be nearing finish line

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Wayne Hubbard is a fixture at Exhibition Park Raceway in Saint John.

He began going there as a teen, “acquired hooked” on harness racing, and has been going there ever since.

“If you may’t discover me at house, discover me right here. It’s simply my second house.”

He’s simply come off the monitor after a quick coaching session along with his horse, Pickpocket Princess, which completed with a shampoo and rinse in the barn to take away any sweat and dirt from her afternoon train.

Pickpocket Princess appears to take pleasure in her post-exercise bathtub. ‘We spoil them,’ says proprietor Wayne Hubbard. (Steven Webb/CBC)

His entire household is concerned in harness racing, together with his mom, who helps out in the raceway’s canteen when she will.

So, it got here as a shock when the horse house owners acquired a discover saying the monitor’s lease with the Exhibition Association wouldn’t be renewed.

The lease runs out Dec. 31.

For Hubbard’s sister, Janice Hubbard, the information of the upcoming closure hit doubly exhausting.

“I simply moved again house in March to be with my household,” she stated. “I used to be away in Ontario for 22 years and I needed to return again to my household as a result of we’re all concerned in harness [racing].”

She has 4 standardbreds right here on the raceway, together with Nannie Bernice, coming off a giant win this previous week in Summerside, P.E.I..

The website of Exhibition Park Raceway has been related to harness racing for greater than a century. This picture is from a race in the Nineteen Forties. (Submitted by Scott Bernard)

“Quite a bit of folks have jobs right here and so they have a racehorse as a result of it is their passion and that is what they love to do,” Hubbard stated.

“Myself, that is my bread and butter proper right here and that is why I raised my younger horses and I’ve cash invested and I wish to see this place keep and I hope the precise particular person takes over and makes it occur.”

But that does not appear doubtless as issues stand proper now.

Exhibition Association makes assertion

The Exhibition Association declined an interview request.

In an announcement, the affiliation stated: “the Board has made the choice to place itself to be capable of discover alternatives that may have the potential to make higher use of the lands and amenities, thus offering a higher service to the higher Saint John neighborhood.”

Harness Racing New Brunswick, which operates the monitor, did make a last-minute provide that included elevated hire, but it surely didn’t appear to vary the minds of the affiliation board members.

Harness Racing N.B. has stated it would doubtless transfer its operations to Woodstock, N.B.

Sam Hodgin, the president of the horsemen’s affiliation in Saint John, stated that does not actually assist native horse house owners.

“The folks which are in the sport listed here are solely in the sport as a result of there is a monitor in Saint John,” Hodgin stated.

Janice Hubbard is proven with one of her 4 standardbred horses on the Exhibition Park Raceway barn. ‘This is my livelihood.’ she says. (Steven Webb/CBC)

“All the those that have horses round … they’re solely right here as a result of we stay in this space and it is the one race monitor in the southern half of New Brunswick that anyone can really train their horses, even when there is no racing, you recognize. That’s the place we take care of our horses every day.”

For most of them, transferring to Woodstock is out of the query.

Janice Hubbard does have the skill to maneuver the place the motion is, however she got here again to Saint John this yr to be close to her household, and the thought of transferring once more makes her properly up with tears.

“It’s robust. I can not make that call. I do not wish to make the choice and I’m a constructive thinker and one thing has to — any person’s going to give you one thing, I’m praying.”

A packed fence line and grandstand in 1972. The grandstand is lengthy gone and the game has gone by some exhausting occasions in current years, however native horsemen say the pandemic introduced greater crowds again to Exhibition Park Raceway. (Submitted by Scott Bernard)

The closure comes at a time when the raceway was really seeing a bit of a renaissance.

Hodgin stated the pandemic introduced new folks to the monitor, searching for an out of doors exercise, and races this yr noticed “great crowds.”

Economic impression

Hodgin stated there will even be an financial impression of a closure, with farmers and feed shops seeing a drop in demand for hay and feeds, and veterinarians shedding enterprise.

He additionally makes his dwelling as a farrier, and sneakers all of the 30 or so horses on the raceway.

He’s anticipating a minimum of a 25 per cent drop in enterprise and stated it would be a hardship.

Hodgin stated it would doubtless curtail standardbred breeding packages in New Brunswick, too.

“[Harness Racing NB] put in a brand new breeding program the final couple of years and it is simply beginning to decide again up. And so, folks have invested in breeding horses and now all of a sudden … the place goes to be closed.”

“So, in the midst of a rebuild of a breeding program the carpet goes to be hauled out from underneath them.”

The final race of the season is scheduled for Oct. 15. It may be the final race run on the property, which has a racing history that traces again virtually 150 years.

If it’s, Wayne Hubbard stated he isn’t prone to half with the horses he cares for each day.

“I do not know if I’d promote them,” he stated. “They’d find yourself out in the sector someplace. I do not suppose anyone else would have them.”

“I’d find yourself paying for them to be out in any person’s discipline.”

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