Although there has yet to be official announcement from the Ontario Government, key players surrounding live Standardbred racing at Sarnia’s Hiawatha Horse Park and Kawartha Downs in the Peterborough area have stated that live horse racing will be staying at the respective tracks for at least the next five years.
Hiawatha Horse Park operator Jim Henderson has been cited as saying that he has reached a five-year agreement with the Ontario Government.
Henderson has told Blackburn News that after Hiawatha concludes its live meet in September, officials will sit down and analyze the season to determine if any changes need to be made.
“It’s a lot better feeling for everybody and I think that horsepeople are beginning to come back to Ontario,” Henderson told Blackburn News. “Quite a few of the poor guys left. They’ve gone to Ohio. They’ve gone to Michigan. They’ve gone to different places. They’ve moved up north and gotten right out of the business. But it will be good for everybody if they get this going again – it’ll really help the industry back.”
Hiawatha’s 21-date meet will kick off this Saturday (June 28) and will run through until September 6. To view Hiawatha’s 2014 race date calendar, click here. To view the harness racing entries for Hiawatha’s Saturday program, click here.
A report by the Peterborough Examiner has quoted Greg Walling, of The Sullivan Group, as saying that government has pledged five years worth of funding to Kawartha Downs, located in Fraserville, Ont.
The article explains that Walling entered the fray when negotiations between Kawartha Downs owner Harvey ‘Skip’ Ambrose hit a snag. According to the report, Walling has brokered a deal between the two sides and has been tasked with setting up a not-for-profit group to operate the track. The article also says that Ambrose renewed his licence to operate Kawartha for 2014 because the new group was not set up in time.
“Mr. Ambrose stepped forward and will hold the licence for this year. That doesn't mean the commitment of the government is a year, it's a five-year commitment. We're here and we're not going anywhere,” Walling was quoted as saying.
In regard to the official ‘ranking’ of Kawartha Downs, Walling stated that the raceway is currently considered a ‘grassroots’ track – categorically lower than ‘Signature’ and ‘Premium’ tracks in the province – but that status could change in the future. “We've been told by the government if we do a good job here we have an opportunity to grow to a Signature,” Walling was quoted as saying. “That means bigger purses and more races.”
Kawartha Downs kicked off its 18-date season of live racing last Saturday. The track will offer live Standardbred racing virtually every Saturday until October 25.
(With files from Blackburn News and the Peterborough Examiner)