Brian Embleton, long-time Fredericton exhibition and raceway manager, dies at 67

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Brian Embleton, a prominent figure in Fredericton's horse racing scene and exhibition grounds, has died. He was 67.

Embleton was general manager of the Fredericton Raceway and Exhibition Grounds from 1979 to 1999.

The Fredericton native recorded the highest attendance numbers in the grounds' history during that period.

Nicknamed "Doc" by his friends for his knowledge of horses, Embleton would later move on to train the animals on a professional level.

He died of lung cancer Sunday morning at Hospice Fredericton.

'His heart, his passion was the racing industry'

Kari Embleton Granlund said in an interview about her father on Monday that horse racing and the Fredericton exhibition were truly a family affair. She said her dad would run the events, while her mother, Nancy Embleton, would keep track of scoring in the bleachers.

Embleton Granlund eventually joined the family operation by working the ticket stand for race betters.

Submitted by Kari Embelton Grunland
Submitted by Kari Embelton Grunland

Embleton Granlund spent much of her childhood at the grounds' barn with her father, where he taught her how to groom, harness and train horses. Soon enough, she had grown a strong passion for the animal.

"He lit that fire inside of me and that was our special time that we had together," the 42-year-old Embleton Granlund said.

Every year, she said her father brought home a large stuffed animal from the exhibition grounds for both herself and her brother Ryan Embleton.

"We just thought he was so special that he would be able to walk out and get us one of those animals," she said. "We got to pick out one that we wanted every year... our basement was full of huge stuffed animals."

An influential boss and friend

Brent Briggs was 15 years old when he was hired by Embleton at Fredericton Raceway.

His first job was to work around the office, while also writing stories for local newspapers and doing live reporting of races for radio.

Brent Briggs/Facebook
Brent Briggs/Facebook

"To even just write and do some radio reporting at that age was a pretty significant thing for me at the time because I was so young," Briggs said. "He kind of gave me my start."

Briggs was able to write stories about racing and racing personalities for the Telegraph-Journal and the Daily Gleaner thanks to Embleton. The pair worked together for 10 years.

"I feel like I am (who I am) today because of him," he said.

"When you're that age, you're very impressionable and I just ended up working for the right person."

WATCH | Brian Embelton and Brent Briggs live reporting in 1990

Briggs acted as the raceway's general manager from 2003 to 2008.

A horse person at heart

Briggs said one of his favourite memories with Embleton was in 2017 when the Fredericton Raceway was set to close, just as it marked 130 years in operation.

The pair were reunited in their efforts to put on one last horse race program at the track called Fredericton Raceway 130. They raised just under $20,000.

"That's something the two of us did together side-by-side, just like we used to do," Briggs said. "We had kind of come back to work together one more time. That's my most significant memory."

Briggs said when Embleton ran the shows at the grounds, they were their most successful ever.

Nancy Green/Facebook
Nancy Green/Facebook

Crowds would reach 40,000 people per week to the grounds. Now, events there would be lucky to get 25,000 visitors, he said.

"Its greatest achievements took place while he was the manager .... There's no question about that."

After his wife of almost 25 years died, Embleton moved to Hagersville, Ont. in 2000 to work for the Bill Robinson Stable in a career change that allowed him to focus on training directly with horses.

He came back to Fredericton a few years later, where he continued to work with horses until the raceway was closed in 2017.