October 23rd, 2020

Horse racing returns with restrictions in place


By Woodard, Dale on September 4, 2020.

Groomer Shawn McConaghie leads a horse into one of the barns behind the track Thursday on the Exhibition Grounds. The Rocky Mountain Turf Club is set to begin horse racing action with the fall schedule starting this weekend. Herald photo by Ian Martens @IMartensHerald

Dale Woodard

Lethbridge Herald

sports@lethbridgeherald.com

The Rocky Mountain Turf Club is ready to derby it up this fall.

Of course, the usual COVID-19 protocols will be in place as the RMTC heads into the fall schedule, but Rose Rossi, RMTC and Bullys Casino general manager, said the race day vibe will remain in place as the horses take the starting gate for opening weekend Saturday, Sunday and Monday.

Post time is 1 p.m. each day.

“It (pandemic) has had a big effect,” said Rossi. “We were supposed to race in May and it didn’t happen. But you look at it globally, the Kentucky Derby didn’t happen, but it’s going to happen this weekend. So it’s going to be televised for the first time in 146 years (since) the Kentucky Derby was moved. So it’s televised on Saturday. So we’re still going to derby it up and we still want race fans to put on their hats. Whether you’re wearing a mask, you will jump up and shout and derby it up.”

Alberta Health stated the RMTC can have up to 200 race fans outdoors, said Rossi.

“We have the inside facility and we also have Bullys Casino and tarmac.”

However, the upper floors will be closed this fall.

“A lot of people who know our facility will tell you that our elevator is not even two metres and there are narrow stairways. So we apologize for that, but we’re like everybody else and you have restrictions,” said Rossi. “In the stands, every two stands will be closed. So there is a lot of great seating in the grandstand and I apologize to those that love to have those rooms with a view. It will not be happening for this season.”

The capacity for indoors is 100 people.

“We have to follow the bylaws,” said Rossi. “While indoors they must wear a mask and when they’re outdoors there is social distancing. We have signs everywhere. I think everybody has heard the same chant since March, so I think it’s pretty good. We do have the place beautifully decorated and we’re enthused to see all our race fans back and all of our horsemen who come from everywhere.”

Due to border issues, there will be no American riders.

“But there are some that came from Jamaica,” said Rossi. “They did all the COVID (testing) and isolation. So we have been diligently following all the rules and regulations of Alberta Health.”

Those regulations apply to the riders as well.

“There are rules in the backstretch for them, too, with masks and all of those things,” said Rossi. “Everything applies as well.”

Still, no pandemic is going to take away the high-calibre racing this fall.

“We have some big stakes races and we have the Alberta Breds and we’re very proud to see that continue in Alberta to bring out the finest horses,” said Rossi. “We have the B Cup Challenges as well because we are a B track. So those are some big stakes races.

“We’re hoping to have some Indian Relays. It’s tough because a lot of those riders are in the U.S. as well. We want to keep things going like everybody else and we certainly wish everybody else well through this.”

Remaining race dates this fall include Sept. 12-13, Sept. 19-20, Sept. 25-27, Oct. 3-4 and Oct. 10-12, ending with the Queen’s Plate on Oct. 12.

Post time FridayĆ¢ the Sept. 25 date, is 6 p.m.

For further information visit http://www.rockymountainturfclub.com.

Follow @DWoodardHerald on Twitter

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