It's been over four months since the launch of the Standardbred Alliance in Ontario on April 1 and wagering on Standardbred horse races at these tracks is already seeing a sharp increase compared to the same period last year.
From April 1 through August 9, "all-sources" wagering on Standardbred Alliance racing is $148,227,950, an encouraging 8.92 percent rise over the $136,083,298 bet through the equivalent period in 2013. The numbers are promising on a per race basis as well. Last year, an average of $57,347 was bet per race (2373 races). After April 1, in 2014, an average of $60,280 per race (2459 races) was recorded, also a strong 5.11 per cent increase. Number of races is up 3.6 per cent over last year.
"There's plenty of work to do, but so far the alliance concept is proving to accomplish what it had intended,” said Jamie Martin, Executive Vice-President of Racing at Woodbine Entertainment Group (WEG) and Chair of the Standardbred Alliance board. "It's helped to create some positive momentum for the industry, plus a platform for the core standardbred tracks to be partners in this new era. Racing fans are responding well at Mohawk and the other Alliance tracks under the new model with wagering up strongly both per race and overall.”
Grand River Raceway, in Elora, is seeing double-digit wagering increases both per race and overall.
"We have experienced an increase in wagering of 16.56 percent per race, leading to a 10.58 percent rise overall on our live racing product,” said Dr. Ted Clarke, General Manager of Grand River Raceway. "Total wagering on our Industry Day on August 4 was the highest since 2005. The positive wagering results and attendance indicate the fan base and interest are solid.”
The Standardbred Alliance, led by Woodbine Entertainment Group, is a consortium of eight Ontario racetracks. Launched April 1, the members represent a three-tier racing hierarchy, ‘Grass Roots' (Clinton, Hanover), ‘Signature' (Flamboro, Georgian, Grand River and Western Fair) and ‘Premier' (Mohawk and Woodbine). The tracks have worked together to implement operational efficiencies, co-ordinate a year-round racing calendar, develop a program of racing that is attractive to foreign and domestic customers, and establish consistent purses.
The Ontario Horse Racing Industry Association (OHRIA) is buoyed by the wagering rise through the early months of the Standardbred Alliance concept.
"We're glad to see wagering is up,” said Sue Leslie, President of OHRIA. "Fans are continuing to embrace this wonderful sport and it's gaining new ones. The next step is to have racing fully integrated into the province's gaming strategy to ensure the long-term sustainability of the model.”
Highlights of the season so far include State Treasurer's win at the Molson Pace at Western Fair, JK Endofanera's win in the Pepsi North America Cup at Mohawk, Shadows Wonder's victory in Clinton's Kin Pace, Go Daddy Go's score in the Battle of Waterloo at Grand River and Warrawee Promesse's tally in the Dream of Glory at Hanover.
The Georgian Downs meet is in full swing, with the Earl Rowe Memorial Cup Trot set for Aug. 23, while the start of the final part of the 2014 Flamboro Downs meet is scheduled for Sept. 2.
Several major stakes are set for the latter half of season on the WEG circuit, including the Metro Pace at Mohawk on August 30, the Canadian Trotting Classic on September 13, while the ‘Fall Four' (Goldsmith Maid, Three Diamonds, Governor's Cup and Valley Victory) is set for Woodbine on October 25. (WEG)