Horse racing returns to Central Alberta
The Track on 2 will host its first set of races this month. (Photo supplied)
Horse racing is still in the cards for the former Alberta Downs racetrack just off Hwy 12 and the QEII.
Now renamed the “Track on 2 - Horse Racing and Event Centre,” the facility will see races return sooner than expected.
“We are excited to announce that we are partnering with the Alberta Standardbred Horse Association to host some exhibition races on September 17th starting at 1 p.m.,” said Kyla Belich.
The event will be free and open to the public.
She and her husband Kurt Belich, as well as Ross Morrison recently bought the track - the only one-mile dirt track and 7/8 mile grass track in Western Canada - in mid August.
While there was some speculation that horse racing wouldn’t return, those fears can officially be put to rest.
“Our hope is that it will stay a race track. All things are suggesting, despite hurdles of the past, that we should be able to get through,” said Belich.
“It’s a steep learning curve, but everyone we’ve talked to seems very open to help us.”
Although they’re new to the horse racing industry, she said they understand there is a tremendous need for an operational track in Central Alberta, especially with Northlands closing in Edmonton and the new Century Mile track as of yet not under construction.
“To my understanding, it can be quite a hassle to have to travel from Calgary to Edmonton. People are quite excited for the potential to board their horses in Lacombe. It will save them a bit of driving time,” she said.
Although there are already plans for racing to return, there are some upgrades they are planning to do before they officially open the rebranded facility next fall.
Among maintenance tasks, and other renovations, is a plan to remove a wall within the building on site and open up the space for race-goers.
Eventually, they also plan to close in the building to protect patrons from wind and other inclement weather and will begin with the closing off of the north side.
Plans are also to expand the scope of the facility to an event centre, offering the Lacombe area another option for hosting large-scale events other than MEGlobal Athletic Park.
“What we’ve been told is when they have stuff at MEGlobal, there’s no where for people to go if there’s inclement weather,” she said. “That’s where we’d be able to help out.
“We’ll operate as many races as we can and potentially have concerts and things like that taking place.”
Detailed plans for the future are expected in the upcoming months. The hope is to also plan a few fun events for the next year as well, including traditional derby days where patrons will be invited to dress up and head down to the track.
“The cool thing is we’ve been involved with the community. We live in Red Deer, but the opportunity for the race track came up and we thought it would be a great way to invest in the community in a different way,” she said. “We’re really excited for it.”