Harness Racing: A great Island tradition

Harness racing is in our Island blood.

When the bugle blare’s the call to post and you hear the pounding of hoofs on a firm track, an Islander is immediately transported to a place and time of pride, joy and excitement.

Whether it’s the Governor’s Plate in Summerside, the Gold Cup and Saucer in Charlottetown, or a maiden race at one of our many community matinee tracks, harness racing is our Island pastime.

Harness racing is not just integral to our way of life in PEI, it is also one of our province’s largest industry sectors, injecting over $80 million a year into the provincial economy and supporting over 750 jobs for Islanders.

Successive provincial governments have played an important role to support the continued growth of the harness racing industry in PEI. Politicians such as Mitch Murphy, Mike Currie, Pat Binns, Robert Ghiz, Wes Sheridan, Heath MacDonald, Robert Mitchell and many others have promoted and invested in this industry, and have worked with owners, breeders and industry stakeholders to position the Island harness racing for long term success.

As a life-time fan of racing and a dedicated promoter of our Island history, I would like to add my name to that impressive list of PEI politicians who have championed the cause of promoting, growing and investing in our harness racing industry.

As a candidate for leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Prince Edward Island, I am committed to supporting and growing harness racing on PEI, as well as working with industry partners and our Maritime government leaders to build a viable, sustainable, successful racing circuit in this region.

My commitment for harness racing will be built around four pillars:

INVESTMENT: My commitment is to increase the provincial investment in our purse pool structure to $3 Mil immediately. When Red Shores first opened, there was a commitment to share revenues with the harness industry. The Red Shores model has been and continues to be successful. Over recent years the purse pool structure has been increased but further investment is necessary for the health and growth of the harness racing industry in PEI.

COLLABORATION:  My commitment to work with racetrack operators, breeders, owners, drivers and other stakeholders to best position the harness racing industry in PEI for long term success. As the racing industry evolves to meet the realities of today and tomorrow, government must be a leading partner to best ensure racing is viable, sustainable, inclusive, transparent and properly structured to promote all aspects of racing from the grassroots up.

SUSTAINABILITY:  The success of PEI harness racing has been well documented. But PEI has pushed against a changing tide. In PEI, we have done a terrific job in maintaining and growing this industry, but the same can’t be said for the other Maritime locations. For this industry to be sustainable in the long run, PEI needs to remain a leader by continuing to foster a greater partnership with our Maritime counterparts. For our long term success, we need better racing opportunities in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. This industry was once a Maritime success and I believe we can make it so again.

 I want to work with all industry stakeholders toward all efforts that will make our industry regionally sustainable for the future. Those efforts must include reviewing how we administer our stakes and breeding programs, as well as how we best offer racing programs that are fair for breeders, owners, drivers, trainers and fans.

COMMUNITY: Harness racing is an Island-wide industry. Breeders, owners, drivers, trainers and fans span our province and are the fabric of racing. Many of those thriving in the industry today, including stars like Mark MacDonald and Marc Campbell, got their start on a matinee racetrack. My commitment is to enhance our provincial commitment to our community matinee race tracks to ensure the feeder system for the Island harness racing industry is strong, viable and sustainable for the future.

I love harness racing. I always have. I know harness racing has been part of the Island’s social fabric for over 150 years. It is something we have always been very good at it. We have many world class success stories and some of harness racing’s greatest, like the O’Briens, the MacDonald’s, the Hennessey’s, the Andrews and so many others, trace their roots to Prince Edward Island.

I want to work with all members of this important Island industry to ensure it remains sustainable and strong for many more years to come.