Industry stakeholders:

The content posted below is the first of what we anticipate to be regular industry updates to horse racing stakeholders in B.C.

We are in extraordinary times due to the virus outbreak and we want to be sure that information related to horse racing in our province is accurate and timely.

Please also circulate this communication to any others in the industry who would benefit from it.

Brian Butters

Interim Chair, BC Horse Racing Industry Management Committee

Several developments to make you aware of:

Great Canadian Gaming and the horsemen at Fraser Downs @ Elements have reached an agreement whereby horses currently stabled at Fraser Downs will be permitted to jog on the track, subject to the conditions that had been laid out previously. This will commence tomorrow (Saturday, April 4, 2020).

Also, discussions between Great Canadian and the thoroughbred sector are underway to determine when the Hastings track and backstretch might be reopened to permit stabling of horses and light exercise. More details will be communicated when they are available.

Finally, the BC Horse Racing Industry Management Committee has agreed to create an Emergency Task Force for BC Horse Racing.

The purpose of the task force is to provide a communications capability by which the BC horse racing industry and its stakeholders can be kept informed about industry developments related to the COVID-19 pandemic in a timely and accurate way.

The task force will meet by way of telephone conference call approximately weekly, and more frequently as required. Information of value to the industry will be communicated to stakeholders following meetings.

The membership of the task force is as follows: ( * denotes member of Horse Racing Industry Management Committee)

Great Canadian Gaming Corp. (Track Operator)

Chuck Keeling *

Darren MacDonald, Regional Director, BC Racing

Thoroughbred Sector

Glen Todd *

Ole Nielsen, president, BC TOBA

David Milburn, president, HBPA BC

Standardbred Sector

Ross Sharp *

Kelly MacMillan, breeder, and board member of Harness Racing BC

Lynda Atkinson, breeder, and board member, Horse Council of BC

Brian Butters, Interim Chair, HRIMC *

Bill McNeill, GPEB, non-voting member of HRIMC *

The first meeting of the Emergency Task Force will take place early next week.

Brian Butters


Hi Club Members,

It’s been a busy time since our update last week and given all the developments, we hope this message finds you and your families in good health. As some of you will know from the various industry newsletters, although the backstretch was initially open after the closing of the casino, it has now been decided that training at the track is going to be suspended for the time being.

Our horses are in the process of shipping to farms with training facilities, so that they can continue their pre-season preparation as the COVID-19 pandemic plays out. The intention for us (and for a lot of other owners/trainers) is to keep the horses racing fit and ensure that as soon as the virus situation permits, we are ready to begin our season.

Given the situation is so fluid at the moment, we don’t have any indicator with regards to when the 2020 season may potentially start, but any updates that we receive we will pass along immediately. This is obviously not a situation that anyone could have foreseen and our thoughts are with everyone on the backstretch who, like so many others in society, have seen their livelihoods disrupted.

The Club is still active for this year and we are grateful for the support and patience that Club Members who have reached out to us have shown us over the last week. To help us through this period the Thoroughbred Racing Associations are going to absorb the cost of expenditures related to the Club horses from April 1st until training is resumed at Hastings, meaning that your membership fees are not funding this period of uncertainty. Our thanks go out to the Associations for this assistance and I know we all hope to support the industry as much as possible in return during this period and once racing resumes.

Over the last week the trainers have been continuing to work the horses at Hastings, although the clockers have not been at the track to officially log workout times. All of the horses at the track (Dancer, Bidder and Warrior’s Promise) have all been doing very well and the number one priority of the trainers is going to be ensuring that we don’t lose the benefit of the last two months of hard work.

If you have any questions, just let us know. We will be in touch with updates as we receive them and in the meantime, we hope you all stay safe.

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Great Canadian does recognize the concern related to some horse people not being able to find appropriate stabling for their horses as it relates to Great Canadian’s need to vacate the two backstretches. Keeping in mind our overarching concern is the health and safety of everyone involved at the two tracks, while being consistent with the direction from the provincial medical officer, we are proposing the following:

  • Great Canadian Gaming Corp. will allow the facilities to stay open, but no training will be allowed. Access to the track itself will be allowed for walking their horses, but no exercising/training
  • Great Canadian Gaming Corp. will be bringing in third party security, and those costs will be charged back to the breed associations
  • The onus will be on the respective breed associations to aim for a 50% reduction in the number of horses at each track from current numbers, with the goal to be approximately 25% of the original horse population remaining after April 1st
  • Great Canadian Gaming Corp. will limit the number of people on each backstretch to 50 at any one time, or a number lower based on direction from the provincial government or health authorities, inclusive of those domiciled at each track.
    This will also require “sign in, sign out” privileges at the front gate at each backstretch
  • Anyone displaying flu-like symptoms will be denied entry to the backstretch, or will be asked to leave if on the backstretch
  • Everyone on the backstretch will be mandated, at all times, to practice social distancing
  • Each individual accessing the backstretch will have to sign a waiver that accounts for the following:

They will comply with all of our rules
They will comply with all prevailing health authority orders

They will indemnify GCGC, the facility, and the respective city (Vancouver or Surrey, as property owners).

Contravention of any of the above will lead to the removal of any individual immediately from the backstretch, as well as the removal of their horses within 72 hours.

Great Canadian Gaming Corp

Great Canadian, in consultation with the BC Horse Racing Management Committee, agreed this morning to allow for the continuation of training at both tracks until March 31st, with the following conditions

Attention: Horseman

Great Canadian, in consultation with the BC Horse Racing Management Committee, agreed this morning to allow for the continuation of training at both tracks until March 31st, with the following conditions:

-only essential horsepeople to be allowed in the backstretch areas and facilities

-Great Canadian will only provide the essential personnel to maintain training conditions and the operation of the stabling areas

-horsepeople will not interact in any physically proximate way with Great Canadian personnel, under any circumstances

-if certain personnel refuse to work for safety purposes, horse people recognize that may impact ongoing operations prior to April 1st

-social distancing measures will be undertaken by horsepeople at all times, and it is Great Canadian’s understanding that this will be enforced by GPEB

-horsepeople will commit to good personal hygiene and cleanliness of the stabling areas they frequent (tack rooms, shed rows, etc.) at all times

-the backstretches of both tracks will be vacated of horses by April 1st, and on a “best efforts” basis of personnel domiciled on the backstretches by April 1st.

We again appreciate the cooperation of all horsepeople to ensure the orderly shutdown of the backstretches at both tracks under these very challenging conditions, and Great Canadian remains committed to restoring racing operations once the necessary authorities deem it safe to do so.

We would appreciate acknowledgement and agreement by email to the above.

Yours truly,

Darren MacDonald

Regional Director, BC Racing


Attention: Thoroughbred Horsepeople

As you are all aware, Great Canadian, in conjunction with the BC Lottery Corporation, has closed all Great Canadian gaming facilities in the Province, which includes all front side operations at Hastings Racecourse. We are monitoring the COVID – 19 situation very closely with our focus being on the safety of our guests, team members and horsepeople.  We understand how crucial preseason training is for thoroughbred racehorses, and with that in mind the backstretch and training will remain open at Hastings.  We will work closely with the breed association’s representatives to ensure we are offering the essential services that are required to prepare for the season.

It is of the utmost importance that we limit access to the backstretch to those deemed critical in the care and training of the racehorses. We must all practice social distancing and avoid unnecessary contact to ensure the safety of all involved in the industry.  We will expect everyone to work together and restrict admittance to the backstretch only to those that are essential to the training and care of racehorses.

As the situation with COVID – 19 has remained so fluid and ever-changing, discussions regarding the racing season will take place in early April and decisions will be made at this time. This is a very challenging time for everyone in this industry, and many more around the country.  We thank you for your patience and understanding during this unprecedented period.

Yours truly,

Darren MacDonald

Regional Director, BC Racing