File Photo by PAUL COWLEY/Advocate staff Track on 2 owner Kurt Belich gets some tips from trainer and horse owner Amy Henry, as they take Tweety out for a few exercise laps last summer. The Track on 2 will be the first in the province to host live racing with fans on Sunday.

Off to the races: Lacombe’s track is first in province to host live horse racing

Will host 12 harness horse races this summer, every Sunday until the end of August

From the beginning, Kurt and Kyla Belich have always had a can-do attitude.

That’s carried the couple through many bumps in the road at the Track on 2 horse racing and event centre over the past three years. That’s when they invested in the property that once housed Alberta Downs race track, just west of Lacombe on Highway 2.

It’s that attitude that will also allow them to do something special on Sunday, as they will be the first track in the province to host horse racing this summer.

They will also be just one of two in North America allowing fans at the track.

“We’re very much excited to get going. We’re a little bit nervous, because I think we’re only the second jurisdiction in all of North America that has live racing with fans,” said Kurt Belich on Friday.

“It’s complicated enough on a normal race day. We’ve got that dialed in pretty well, but now we add the COVID restrictions, so it takes a little bit of planning. And we were only told on Tuesday that we could go ahead.”

For the Belichs, it has been a whirlwind few days since the province announced that Stage 2 of Alberta’s relaunch was set for Friday.

After Tuesday’s announcement, they put life at the track into overdrive. From calling back employees to rearranging seating to meet Alberta Health Services guidelines, as well as meeting provincial and national horse racing standards, there hasn’t been much sleep for the couple this week.

“We’re really excited, a little stressed. They just announced on Tuesday we could do this. We had a lot of the stuff prepped and ready to go, but there’s a lot of stuff we can’t do until we know.

“Race days are pretty busy for us,” he said, adding they have close to 50 people on hand on race day to make things run smoothly.

As of Friday afternoon, they had sold about half the tickets for Sunday’s race, which will post at 3:10 p.m.

On a typical race day in the past, they’d have close to 1,200 fans in the stands. With all the COVID-19 restrictions in place, Sunday will be closer to 260.

While tickets are free, patrons are asked to register at www.eventbrite.ca/o/the-track-on-2, where they will get a $5 betting voucher.

“When you’re betting – we’ve got bets that are 20 cents. You can take 10 bucks and have a fun time betting all day and take it to the end. It doesn’t have to be expensive,” said Belich, adding the VLT lounge also opened Friday morning.

In the first year the Belichs owned the track, they had 10 races, all harness racing, before bumping that up to 15 in their second season last year.

They’ll host 12 races this year, every Sunday at 3:10 p.m., from this weekend until the end of August. If fans can’t make it out to the track, they can stream and bet online.

The purse this weekend, for the nine standardbred harness races, will be close to $32,000, which isn’t too bad for a small track like Track on 2.

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