The Woodbine Entertainment Group announced last week that its live Standardbred racing product will be moving to Mohawk Racetrack in 2018. Jim Lawson, WEG’s chief executive, has commented further on the move, as have a pair of well-known Standardbred horsemen.
Last week, Lawson announced at the post position draw for the $1 million Pepsi North America Cup that WEG will be investing $10 million to extensively renovate and winterize Mohawk.
In an article by Milton Canadian Champion, Lawson explained that WEG has crunched all of the numbers and it is comfortable with removing live its live Standardbred racing product out of Toronto, one of the biggest markets in North America.
“This has been well thought out for 24 to 30 months, and we’re extremely comfortable with our decision,” said Lawson, who also said that 75 per cent of wagering is now done so online. “Milton’s the fastest-growing community in Canada. The population increase is off the chart. We’ve done our homework. Anyone with concerns about the Toronto market don’t have access to our numbers.”
In regard to WEG Standardbred racing leaving Toronto, trainer Ben Wallace sees it as a positive move.
“I’ll miss being in the central core of Toronto, but I think this is a plus for everyone,” said Wallace. “I just hope the commitment is as flamboyant as it could be.”
Ontario Harness Horse Association General Manager Brian Tropea has also commented on the move to Mohawk.
“I think the feelings (are) split,” said Tropea. “On the one hand there’s the convenience of travel, but what does it mean when we’ll have no presence at the largest market in Canada (Woodbine)? I think it’ll be detrimental to the growth of the industry.”
According to the Milton Canadian Champion, Tropea also said that he was concerned about changes to racing’s revenue sharing agreement — with a split of the breeds.
(With files from the Milton Canadian Champion)