Winter flurries hath no fury on Western Fair’s iconic raceway.
For the last 55 years, the raceway has brought the best of world class harness horse racing to the Forest City which in turn has been fundamental in developing a cultural identity in London.
Since its inception – the raceway has forged a tight knit racing community of families, friends and even rivals. Be it a rider, trainer or owner – everyone in that community is honed in on one primary to goal – to win races.
For raceway manager Greg Blanchard, it speaks volumes about the raceway’s rich history.
“It’s part of the province that’s steeped in tradition and here at the raceway we have been around a long time,” said Blanchard.
“Hopefully we’ll be around for a long time to come!”
One would think one of the biggest inhibitors for racing would be the winter weather, but Blanchard says this hasn’t been an issue.
“Our track guys are challenged throughout the winter to ensure that the track is maintained, safe and race-able – and they do a spectacular job of it.”
As Blanchard points out, it would take a special kind of polar vortex to cancel a night at the raceway. He gives all the credit to the maintenance team.
But what about the horses? How do they stay warm?!
“They’re like any animal,” said Scott Young, one of the riders.
“They’ve got long hair but same as yourself – I mean if you go for a 20 minute run in minus-10 degree temperature – your lungs feel it. They go up to 30-40 miles an hour – they’re pretty magnificent.”
“Each horse is different,” said Wray. “I mean some horses race really well in the cold and those horses that have breathing problems in the summer time maybe don’t race as good – it’s all per-horse/per-driver.”
Another racer, Scott Wray gave his thoughts on how the horses cope.
Wray laughed, “I personally much rather race in the summer.”
Rain or shine, snow or sleet – the riders ride and the horses gallop, and Blanchard hopes to see fans doing the same more often.
“Like a lot of other sports, we try to get the word out,” said Blanchard. “There’s still a lot of people who don’t realize what a wonderful thing we have right under our noses, here in London”
For that tight knit community – it’s an opportunity to show those who have been missing out – just what these magnificent animals are capable of.