LETHBRIDGE – Over the past century, Alberta has made a name for itself in the sport of horse racing.
Two of the greatest jockeys of all time, George Wolf and Johnny Longdon, grew up racing on the bush tracks in Alberta.
Albertans have embraced the sport ever since the first recorded race in Millarville, in 1905.
The future of the industry, which had been tumultuous, has recently received renewed support from the provincial government.
Uncertainty looms over Horse Racing Alberta
Nearly two weeks ago, the Government of Alberta and Horse Racing Alberta signed a new 10-year agreement, to support rural communities and the agriculture sector.
READ MORE: Government of Alberta announces funding plan for horse racing
The agreement replaces the old funding agreement which was set to expire in March.
Funding for horse racing will continue to come to the industry using a portion of slot machine revenues from Racing Entertainment Centres, like the Rocky Mountain Turf Club in Lethbridge.
“It provides up to 40% of the net revenue to support and assist horse racing,” said Max Gibb, CEO Rocky Mountain Turf Club.
The sport is not only a fun past time, but a revenue generator in southern Alberta, with over $300 million of economic development in the province being attributed to horse racing.
“Horse racing is a significant employer of people,” said Gibb. “Agricultural development, rural development, hay, grain, transportation, tourism, all kinds of economic development.”
The agreement will allow many to enjoy horse racing for years to come.
“It’s a way of life, it’s generational, it’s many things,” said Rose Rossi, General Manager Rocky Mountain Turf Club. “It also means that this community gets to keep this racetrack, it’s something unique.”
The funding also supports Albertans who have built their lives around the sport, to continue to pursue their passion.
“I can continue doing what I love, what I’ve done for years, without any fear,” said trainer Dallas Birdrattler. “For the past couple of years we haven’t known what is going to happen, now with the new contract, we do have a guarantee for a bit.”
Spectators in Alberta also get a renewed opportunity to experience horse racing.
“You get people coming out with hats,” said Rose Rossi, General Manager Rocky Mountain Turf Club “It’s just a new form, well, an old form of entertainment becoming new again.”
Horse racing has been a strong part of Alberta’s heritage and with this new arrangement it offers the opportunity to engage, amuse and employ new generations of Albertans.