SUMMERSIDE – A solid core of supporters of the Prince County Horsemen’s Club filled Veterans Convention Centre, at Credit Union Place, to celebrate the successes of the 2013 standardbred horse racing season at Red Shores Summerside Raceway.
In addition to the usual greetings from civic and provincial officials, who have supported the local industry in many ways over the past decades, guests heard an outline of the goals of the board of directors, from the incoming president of the club, Terry Murphy, as well as a perspective on the industry from Fred Gillis, a former Maritimer now executive director of the Alberta Standardbred Horse Association.
Terry Murphy paid respects to the former president, the late Philip Doucette who did not complete his term, praised club members for being in the forefront of the industry, and advocated that all work together to move the raceway forward and create a climate of sustainability.
Murphy acknowledged the role of governments in regulating the industry but also as partners in advancing the opportunities and the state of horse racing.
“This complex is one of the best in eastern Canada,” Murphy assessed, but admitted that there was more that needed to be done to ensure sustainability.
He noted the Executive of the PCHC was putting forth a plan to that effect, including an increase race dates; discussing the future management of the complex, separate from the racing oval; expanding the stabling by 50 new stalls to relieve pressure on existing facilities and welcome new stables; and improve equine training and therapy facilities.
Wes Sheridan, provincial finance minister and minister responsible for the Harness Racing Commission promised to continue to work with the PCHC, starting with repairs to the racing oval and supporting the decisions made to ensure viable and profitable racing dates.
Gillis praised Maritime and P.E.I. horse industry players, acknowledging that they may not usually race for big purses but have gained wide recognition nonetheless.
He admitted he has experienced the wealth and the challenges of the industry, and was lucky to be offered the position with the ASHA, but advised that he has learned a lot about sustaining the industry from those experiences.
He offered several suggestions for his audience to consider, both to improve their bottom line in an environment of corporate control, and also to improve the public perception of horseracing and attract the community to the track as part of their entertainment choices. He also likes the opportunities technology can bring to help the industry survive and thrive, but commitment from the industry players and connection with the public is needed to drive advancements.
Horse breeder Bill Andews echoed the ideas, referring to Truro’s effort to improve its image with simple décor upgrades, and relating how the efforts of a group in a small Alberta market improved the betting from $8,000 to $50,000 over a few years.
“Once they come; once they see the facility, they’ll come back,” he assured of the results of efforts to promote the industry positively as an entertainment choice that fans can be proud to share with guests.
Dedication and Excellence Awards
Joe O'Brien Memorial Darren Trainor
Horseman of the Year Philip Doucette
Garth Schurman Memorial Art Rogers
Horsewoman of the Year Jennifer Trainor
Henry Doucette Memorial Eric Johnston
Standardbred Canada Owner of the year Gary Arsenault
Frank Daniels Memorial Alan MacDonald
Breeder of the Year Meridian Farms
Leading Dash Winner (Driver) Walter Cheverie / Brodie MacPhee
Leading Dash Winner (Trainer) Darren Trainor
Top Percentage Driver (50+) Walter Cheverie
Top Percentage Trainer (50+ Starts) Philip DesRoches
Top Percentage Driver (25-49) Brian Andrew
Top Percentage Trainer (25-49 Starts) Darren Trainor
Grooms of the Year Brittany Blaisdell, Morgan MacInnis
Hailey Cole, Marion Stewart
Fan Appreciation Brian Edwards