You might wonder why horse racing would be part of an agricultural column.
Well it was not so long ago horse racing fell under the jurisdiction of provincial agriculture although that changed.
Racing, or at least thoroughbred and standardbred racing is now under the auspices of the Liquor and Gaming Authority.
The provincial government announced earlier this year that it would no longer provide grant funding to racing, and that could be the death knell for the sport in Saskatchewan.
It was one of those seemingly wrong-minded decisions by the Brad Wall-led government.
There are times grants make limited sense because the money spent by the government sometimes seems lost, and benefits only the recipient and few others.
A dollar of grant money to the horse race sector, at least to standardbreds here in Yorkton, (which I am most familiar with) flows through the local economy pretty quickly.
Purse money in a race might go to the horse owner, but they must pay drivers and trainers. The trainers turn around and pay grooms.
The horse eats oats and hay which are often purchased from area farmers.
The horses also need shoes and harness and veterinary services and those too are purchased.
The owners and drivers and trainers all drive vehicles and that means gas sales, and food and a host of other things needed daily.
The government grant dollars pass through a lot of hands pretty quickly.
So the government stimulates a local economy, creates a tourism attribute, and gives local people entertainment. That seems like a pretty good package of positives for the $320,000 which came to racing in Yorkton in 2012.
When you think about what racing means locally it was encouraging to see fans rally with a good crowd at the final day of racing at Cornerstone Raceway in Yorkton for the season. The Yorkton Exhibition Association had been calling for a big crowd as a way to send a message to Wall and company people here want racing to continue.
Unfortunately some key local people who should have been out on the last day of racing to show their public support were not there.
The list included the Mayor and Council. The City owns the barns and grandstand utilized by the racers, and as a group Council should see the positives of racing to Yorkton.
Ditto the Yorkton Chamber of Commerce which should understand the flow of money through local restaurants, hotels, gas stations and other businesses. But the president was not present, nor any visible representation.
Tourism Yorkton also failed to have a visible presence.
Hopefully the City, Chamber and Tourism will be working behind the scenes in coming weeks to lobby the government to move to save racing.
And hopefully in Regina and Saskatoon, home to the province’s other active tracks local organizations put forward a more united front in the lobby to save horse racing.
If they do not, and racing is dead, it will be a sad day in the province. Horse racing has been part of summers in Saskatchewan for decades and that heritage would be missed.
I for one would find empty barns at the Yorkton Exhibition Grounds a sad reminder of what the Wall government did in an attempt to save such a small amount of money it won’t make a ripple in the overall provincial budget.
Calvin Daniels is Assistant Editor with Yorkton This Week.