The Yorkton Exhibition Association (YEA) is showing that determination and perseverance can overcome being left out to dry by the Saskatchewan government.
In spite of only a few short years ago anteing up dollars to fund a new pari-mutuel building at Cornerstone Raceway, a building the YEA was still making payments on, the Brad Wall led government ripped grant funding away from the horse race industry after decades of ongoing support.
While the province did opt for rebating taxes collected on race wagering in the province, a gesture which helped the larger thoroughbred sector, it did little for standardbred racing.
And so after a long history as part of the sport history of Saskatchewan standardbred racing, and its owners, drivers and trainers appeared to have two choices at the end of the 2012 season, be retired to pasture, or like those in the film industry who also lost government support last spring, pack up and move out of the province.
While the Saskatchewan government boasted about welcoming people to a vibrant community those in the standardbred industry were clearly in the sacrificial pile.
This spring the YEA faced a huge conundrum, give up on racing as the province had, and see the standardbred sector die completely, or to forge ahead on its own.
The YEA took the plunge in order to keep racing alive as it and the sector try to garner new long term funding sources.
To the credit of the YEA, and the community, including the Saskatchewan Horse Federation (SHF), there have been race sponsors aplenty to keep racing going. The SHF came on board in a major way with a donation of $11,100 Friday.
But even with the solid local support the sector is on life support. When races are being run for purses of about $1,100, well below what they were a half decade ago, there is precious little in the way of profits when burning gas to get to races, feeding horses and pay associated fees.
What is needed, with a return of government grants unlikely as the government struggles to stay in the black through the current boom, is for the province to truly get out of the way in terms of horse racing and how it operates.
There is a need to open the province to sport betting at least at the casino level. Such betting would include betting on racing outside the province, but racing held in the province by groups such as the YEA could share in the earnings. It is a logical way to increase interest in horse race wagering through well-established casinos in communities where live wagering is not possible, and to increase the overall package of gaming options for those so-inclined.
The province may have abandoned the sector, but efforts here show there is a desire for racing to live on, and the government can at least open the doors to a way to make that desire viable over the long term.