THE HARNESS EDGE SAYS GOODBYE

By Harold Howe

After 14 years, The Harness Edge is closing its doors.
Today marks the end of the company’s place in harness racing.  As they say all good things must come to an end although in recent years they have not been so good.
Quite simply, the business model for the existence of The Harness Edge is no longer viable.  The dramatic shrinkage of the industry primarily due to the end of the Slots At Racetrack program in Ontario is the primary issue.  Regrettably, it is a sunset industry now and except for a very few participants it is not a business…it is a pastime.  And if one questions that fact, just ask the suppliers of services about the state of their receivables.
While making this decision ranks as the most difficult one of my business career, the experiences that came my way are unequalled.  Through the many interviews and associations with people in the game I learned many practical life lessons as much about what not to do as the right path to take.
When I came to racing as a teenager, it was all about the horses.  As I think back over nearly 50 years there are three that stand out.  Unless one is of my vintage and hailed from the Ottawa Valley, the name Earlylakes John has no meaning but in the 1960s he was a regional hero of sorts earning $100,000 when that number meant something.
For me none will ever equal Cam Fella – through his racing career, breeding exploits and retirement tour that horse represented everything that was good about the game.  I was privileged to be front and centre during his time.
And finally it was Somebeachsomewhere.  In an era where so many racing accomplishments are shrouded with suspicion, there was never a whiff of wrongdoing.  It was extraordinary to see him race after race leave one marveling at what true ability could accomplish.
I like to think that for me it always has been about the horses although that has become increasingly difficult in recent years.  There are too many people to acknowledge individually but they shall all remain in my mind.
Were it not for the breeders, owners, trainers, caretakers and drivers there would have been no The Harness Edge or a game for that matter.  So many gave of their time for interviews, some better than others but it all gave life to racing.  To those who did, many thanks for understanding that racing horses is a privilege and with that comes a responsibility.
There were also the track people who did what they could to aid our cause and not just by giving us access and with advertising although that was essential.  They saw themselves as partners in the racing industry and genuinely did their best to put their best foot forward.  Regrettably, there are very few left.
And then there has been a parade of people in the lifespan of The Harness Edge who contributed in various ways.  Heather MacKay Roberts and Kathryn Patchett who made everything hum over the years for the Harness Edge magazine.  Two people that were always in the background but so very important are my wife Marian for looking after the money and Jim Gillies.   Jim is the owner of Lambeth Desktop who created all the wizardry of the website and guided us through innovations like podcasting and video reporting. Working with gifted people is not a given in our world and it becomes easy to see where the wheat differs from the chaff.
The Harness Edge was a wonderful experience and made a very real contribution to the fabric of harness racing.  It deserves a better fate than to be put to sleep like one’s devoted puppy.  But that is life.
On a strictly personal note, I shall continue to pen a racing column for The Hamilton Spectator as I have done for the last 35 years.  If I chose to not do so I am quite sure the column would be eliminated and racing would have zero media presence in the region.
So from The Harness Edge and those who gave it life, thank you one and all and goodbye.

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