Dale Woodard Lethbridge Herald email@example.com
Even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Rocky Mountain Turf Club took the starter’s gate for the past month.
The final races of the fall season headed down the stretch over the Thanksgiving weekend Saturday through Monday.
Despite the ongoing pandemic, a weekend at the track was still a safe bet for racing enthusiasts.
“The crowds have been good,” said Rocky Mountain Turf Club general manager Rose Rossi Saturday afternoon. “People have been in their cohorts in the stands and inside the facility. But I have to say the spirit was here. The people were out and jumping up and shouting and derbying it up for the horses.”
Due to border issues because of the pandemic, there were no American riders this fall at the RMTC.
“It was a sad thing to not have our Americans and people from other provinces,” said Rossi. “Everybody was somewhat displaced this year, but I think the fall meet went very well. The kids are enjoying the stick horse racing in their groups.”
In spite of COVID, Rossi noted plenty of new faces in the bleachers or track-side.
“People (were) trying something new. Especially during COVID, to have that outdoors, the weather was co-operating with us, which helped a lot. But there were a lot of new faces and we love to see that. They really enjoyed it.”
Meanwhile, the riders underwent their own regulations and protocol.
“There is only one gate open at one end and everybody checks in and gets a wristband,” said Rossi. “They have to be masked and they have to sanitize and disinfect. So all those protocols were also in place in the backstretch.”
There were no American riders, but some Jamaican and Mexican jockeys made it to Canadian soil before the pandemic shutdown.
“Some had already arrived prior because normally the training season starts way before the actual spring meet,” said Rossi. “There were some delays and then the 14-day quarantine. We don’t have that many riders. This weekend, for instance, I think we only had about eight.
“Winnipeg has their circuit, too. So when they’re done a bunch came from there. So there was a lot of influx, a lot of people coming to the race meet and bringing their horses from different areas from the provinces surrounding us.”
With the fall season wrapped up, the RMTC looks to the spring schedule, ideally minus the pandemic and the havoc it creates.
“I am an optimist,” said Rossi. “We are going to get through this and life goes on and so does the call to the post.”
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Dale Woodard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Lethbridge Herald