Prairieland Park permanently cancels horse-racing at Marquis Downs after 50 years

·2 min read
Horse-racing at Marquis Downs, a racetrack operated by Prairieland Park, was cancelled last year due to COVID-19. In February, the organization announced the 2021 season would be cancelled as well. (Leanne King Photography  - image credit)
Horse-racing at Marquis Downs, a racetrack operated by Prairieland Park, was cancelled last year due to COVID-19. In February, the organization announced the 2021 season would be cancelled as well. (Leanne King Photography - image credit)

Prairieland Park in Saskatoon is permanently cancelling thoroughbred horse racing at Marquis Downs after 50 years of hosting the sport.

The park said it's in negotiations with the Canadian Premier Soccer League (CPL), as well as Living Sky Sports and Entertainment to bring Saskatchewan's first professional soccer league to Saskatoon.

Horse-racing at Marquis Downs, a racetrack operated by Prairieland Park, was cancelled last year due to COVID-19. Then in late February, the organization announced the 2021 season would be cancelled as well.

Members of Saskatchewan's horse-racing community were devastated, and said more could have been done to save the season and that the cancellation could cause long-term damage to the sport in Saskatchewan.

The news was a heavy blow for many in the industry. Some claimed Prairieland Park had been keeping them in the dark about plans for the season after a deal to lease the facility to Pan Am Horse Racing Inc. for 2021 was unsuccessful.

In a press release, Prairieland Park said the decision to end thoroughbred horse racing was not reached lightly.

"However, the opportunity presented by CPL and Living Sky Sports will help lead Prairieland into the future, and the board felt it was the time to transition the track space at Marquis Downs to accommodate this new venture."

Prairieland went on to say its board of directors recognizes the financial pressures felt by industry members in the wake of this announcement.

The park says it will offer financial compensation in a one-time payment to horse owners. For each horse that ran in three or more races in 2019, Prairieland says it will pay $1,000 to the horse owner.

"Prairieland is proud of its agriculture heritage and will continue to support the agriculture industry through annual events like the Western Canadian Crop Production Show, Saskatchewan Equine Expo, Beef Expo, Gardenscape and our youth programs such as; Garden EXperience, Ag EXperience, Youth Leadership Conference and the annual steer sale," said the Prairieland statement.

"Those Prairieland-produced events, along with the community events hosted in the dedicated ag centre on the property will remain a cornerstone of our ongoing commitment to agriculture in the province."

Prairieland said it is continuing its negotiations with First Nations groups to create and operate a First Nations Equine School and Indian Relay Racing Event at the park.