Horse owners caught in middle of Fredericton Exhibition and Horse Racing New Brunswick squabble

The ongoing battle between Fredericton Exhibition Limited (FREX) and Horse Racing New Brunswick (HRNB) is directly affecting more than the two warring sides —; stable users are feeling helpless over the developing situation.

“The horsemen have been somewhat caught in the middle,” said Sam Hodgin, President of the NB Standardbred Owners and Breeders Association.

The battle really turned sour last month when FREX decided property taxes for the year must paid up front, rather than monthly in previous years.

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When HRNB didn’t pay, FREX took action, locking HRNB out of their offices. The move was quickly taken back due to not providing 30 days notice.

“We were able to get them to get their taxes in line,” FREX Executive Director Mike Vokey said. “This is the first year that that’s happened since I’ve been here.”

“The organization is three years behind in their financial so we can’t look at it and really understand what the costs are and where the revenues are going,” Vokey said. “We know there’s a cost to running races but we provide the facility … for only a dollar. The only obligations they have really come down to running a full season of racing, paying the property taxes and looking after the property.”

On Tuesday one of the Exhibition’s eleven water meters was shut off temporarily, taking HRNB by surprise. The metres used for track maintenance and not consumption by the horses.

FREX says they were shut off for a routine check, and that a a lack of communication is to blame for the confusion, as they needed to check the meters to ensure all water bills were being paid, but weren’t able to meet with HRNB’s President.

“We could’ve sped up the process if we would’ve met in person,” Vokey said.

While Vokey and HRNB work out their differences, horse owners say they’re caught in the crossfire.

“They’re both working hard to try to run their own business,” Hodgin said. “But the horsemen are the ones right now that are kind of —; we really don’t have any say in it, but we’re the ones being affected by losing our race dates.”

The originally planned HRNB scheduled would have seen 10 races in Fredericton, the same amount as last year. Saint John would be bumped from a single race to 10, with three more taking place in Woodstock.

However, according to the posted schedule, HRNB is now only hosting three races in Fredericton this year —; a drop that isn’t welcome for those looking to race in the New Brunswick capital.

“I’m just hoping that the two sides, Fredericton Exhibition and Horse Racing New Brunswick realize that the only way that we’re going to go forward is to work together,” Hodgin said. “Not try to take from one another.”

HRNB didn’t respond to Global News’ request to comment on the situation.

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