BIBLE HILL, N.S. — The Truro Raceway is readying for its opening day on May 7, and general manager Steve Fitzsimmons promises it will be the best season yet.
"Out of our 26 race days, we have events on 16 of those," said Fitzsimmons. "A pretty ambitious schedule, to say the least."
Fitzsimmons began work at the raceway in early March. Before that, he ran his hometown raceway in Hanover, ON. turning it into a track beloved by the community.
Now, he's looking to do the same with the Truro Raceway. His strategy? Event marketing.
"Quite a few of them (events) are attached to charities, nonprofits, and community groups. We're doing quite a few fundraisers to raise money for different things.
"We're doing some things that people will find appealing to come to the track that, if they haven't been here before, or haven't been here in a while, that there'll be a good reason to come, on top of the wonderful horse racing that we have," said Fitzsimmons.
An eventful season
Fitzsimmons said the first level of the newly-renovated grandstand will soon be ready for patrons. Though he expects it won't be ready for opening day, he expects it to be ready for one of their most anticipated events of the season - the Nova Scotia vs. Ontario Driver's Challenge, taking place on June 4.
"We'll have four of the best drivers from Ontario (and in Canada) coming here to compete against some of the best drivers in Nova Scotia. It should be a really fun day. It'll also be a charity day for KidSport.
"We're looking forward to being able to showcase our new grandstand in a limited form that day, but it'll be better than where we've been so far."
Fitzsimmons expects construction of the grandstand to finish by next season.
Tammy MacKay, vice-president of the Truro Horsemen's Club, voiced her excitement about the grandstand's opening in an email to SaltWire.
"The grandstand will be a beautiful facility once it is finished," said MacKay. "We are all patiently waiting for its completion, (and) we look forward to offering live wagering for all bettors. It has taken some time to get this grandstand completed, but people can use our Horsemen's Club as a backup location for betting and viewing the horses."
MacKay also mentioned they'll be holding a meet and greet with the drivers of the challenge at their clubhouse after the race.
Also on the horizon is a fundraising day for Truro's Carma Cat Rescue chapter, where they'll encourage patrons to bring food and items along to the racetrack for donations.
"It's a time of year when they're in significant demand," said Fitzsimmons. "There are lots of kittens being born, and the food runs down pretty quickly at that time of year."
On July 9, the raceway will be holding a Youth Day, where everything will be $2. Aug. 6 will see a mini horse race for both kids and adults.
July 16 will see the track holding what Fitzsimmons calls Distance Day, where horses will run nontraditional distances.
"Ninety-nine per cent of races across the country are one mile," Fitzsimmons explained. "We'll actually have half a mile and a mile-and-a-half.
"It'll be interesting for bettors because it'll be hard to predict which horses will adjust to those different distances. You might know how a horse races in a mile, but you might not know how it might race at half a mile or a mile-and-a-half."
Aug. 27 will be a unique day for the track, as they'll be holding wiener dog races - a popular event in Ontario tracks, said Fitzsimmons.
"There's a track in Ontario where it's their biggest day. We're hoping it'll be one of ours. It's quite the thing to watch, let me tell you."
While he can't announce the name yet, Fitzsimmons also mentioned holding a day in commemoration of a specific driver for charity.
A hockey jersey day, as well as a barbecue day and a free concert day, are all in the works for this season.
"I think it will really enhance people wanting to come and be part of it all," said Fitzsimmons. "It certainly worked well at the other race track I was at, and I think it's time to kick this place into overdrive."
Future of the raceway
When asked why he decided to come to the Truro Raceway, Fitzsimmons spoke of what he saw in the local raceway.
"It has a lot of potential that is quite unrealized right now, and it had a lot of similarities to the track that I came from in some of the challenges.
"The wagering menu was broken and needed to be far more competitive than it has been. We had success at fixing the wagering menu at Hanover which made it more competitive for people betting. Not only in our province but elsewhere as well. We'll attempt to be competitive across the country."
Fitzsimmons said they've introduced a 12 per cent, low take-out pick five, which is "the lowest in the country, period.
"That will be very competitive. It'll kick off every week in race number one, and it will bring us a lot of traffic from elsewhere in Canada, as well as increased traffic from elsewhere in Nova Scotia, in terms of wagering. I think that's going to be a positive for us."
He also plans on implementing a Survivor Contest, where fans can pick a horse within the top three of the first leg in each race.
"It's a free contest to play," said Fitzsimmons. "You just fill it out on our website, and there's $100 in wagering money available to the winner.
"We did that in Ontario - quite a few tracks in Ontario have done that. We'll be the only track in Atlantic Canada, as far as I know, that's doing that."
Fitzsimmons also encouraged those interested to join the Hubtown Horse Owners Club, who will be racing two horses this season: Little Taggs, a 7-year-old Gelding, and Delightful Wine, a 5-year-old Gelding.
Shares in the club can be purchased starting at $300. For more information on that, contact Fitzsimmons at