A large crowd, glorious weather and a one-day betting handle of more than $1 million left almost all of Alberta's thoroughbred leaders overjoyed yesterday.
Foremost among them, probably, was Horse Racing Alberta chair Shirley McClellan.
"It's great that we've attracted this outstanding level of outside horses," she said. "This is an outstanding event and the large crowd shows the value of good promotion."
It also shows the value of HRA's support of Alberta breeding programs, she said.
"I know we've had Alberta-bred winners before but most of the winners (with Alberta connections) were bred outside of the province and had Alberta owners."
The former provincial cabinet minister was quick to point out that three members of the 12-horse field -- Mr. Shadar, Cool Diablo and Bronze Barbarian -- were bred here. Her enthusiasm did not wane when all of them failed to challenge the winners.
"When the breeding support went into effect (in 2002), I had to tell my cabinet colleagues it was impossible to start one year and have the program show big results in the next racing season."
McClellan remains confident that southern Alberta will have a viable racing facility soon, but not immediately.
"The Balzac track will not be in effect for 2010 but I believe in the future of the project. I'm sure we'll have a track in the south of the province before long.
"The sport needs it."