Woodbine Entertainment (Woodbine) today announced that wagering on Woodbine’s 2017 Standardbred and Thoroughbred racing seasons rose soundly over the 2016 meets.
The 132-date Thoroughbred season (one cancellation) produced an “all-sources” handle of $500,713,839, a 7.3 per cent increase over the $469,452,009 figure recorded from 133 dates in 2016.
Wagering on the Standardbred meet, contested between Woodbine and Mohawk, saw a marked increase in average per-race handle to $153,505 — up 5.5 per cent from the 2016 average of $145,448.
The 221-date Standardbred season produced an “all-sources” handle of $347,384,040.61, a 1.7 per cent increase from the $341,513,448 total recorded in 2016. Average field size for the Standardbred meets held steady at 8.8 horses per race.
“We continue to see fine wagering growth in both our Thoroughbred and Standardbred racing programs,” said Jim Lawson, CEO, Woodbine Entertainment. “Racing fans of both breeds from across North America are enjoying our entertaining, competitive fields which feature some of the best horses, jockeys, drivers and horsepeople in the world. Our commitment to high quality horse racing remains at the strategic core of our operation.”
The Queen’s Plate, which had its 158th running in 2017, had a record wagering total of $13.4 million for the July 2 card. Holy Helena became the first filly since Lexie Lou in 2014 to take the title.
Ricoh Woodbine Mile day, on September 15, recorded a significant handle of $13.6 million, while the Pattison Canadian International card, on October 15, had wagering of $7.7 million. Eventual Breeders’ Cup Mile hero World Approval reigned victorious in the Mile, while the International was captured by 42-1 longshot Bullards Alley.
Thoroughbred field size was 8.4 horses per race in 2017.
At Mohawk, the $1 million Pepsi North America Cup had a handle of $4.03 million for the June 17 card. The 34th edition of Canada’s richest harness race was captured by Fear The Dragon and driver David Miller, who won his second consecutive Pepsi North America Cup.
The month of September brought harness racing’s top pacers and trotters to Mohawk, as 33 Grand Circuit stakes races totalling $6.3 million in purses were contested. These stakes included the $816,000 Metro Pace (won by Lost In Time), $684,000 Canadian Trotting Classic (What The Hill), $615,000 Canadian Pacing Derby (Sintra), $593,000 Maple Leaf Trot (Hannelore Hanover) and $500,000 Shes A Great Lady (Youaremycandygirl).
“We’re very proud of the betting growth that has been noticed by many inside the industry and beyond,” said Lawson. “But I’m also excited about the culture we’ve instilled in the staff at Woodbine Entertainment, who believe in the racing product and the Woodbine brand development that has been a large part of our success this year.”
A positive sense of growth and renewal resonated across Woodbine in 2017 from company culture and technological advancements to business development.
Woodbine scored 71 per cent on the Great Places to Work Trust Index, an employee survey score indicating a certification the company has built a first-class work environment that is committed to a core mandate of a culture in achieving the highest quality of horse racing.
Vital to the Great Places to Work success is a continued commitment to culture through Woodbine Cares Week, a week-long celebration of the many valuable community organizations and causes Woodbine supports as a strong community partner.
Strong community ties were celebrated through the annual United Way Turf Races, Rexdale Games and continued support of community partners such as Youth Without Shelter, Trust 15, Ernestine’s Women’s Shelter, and Etobicoke General Hospital.
Technological developments in 2017 included the launch of a mobile app for Apple and Android as well as a refresh of Woodbine and Mohawk Park websites. In addition, The Queen’s Plate became the first ever live broadcast of a horse race in 4K, distributed across North America via Direct TV.
Woodbine continued to lead the horse industry in Ontario overseeing the Standardbred Alliance, which includes nine racetracks, via an unprecedented model of cooperation to achieve operational cost savings for all participants.
In December, a merger was announced between the Standardbred Alliance and Ontario Racing to create an independent industry organization that will result in one strong, unified voice in the Ontario horse racing industry, with a goal of self-governance. The merged entity will engage Ontario Racing Management (ORM), which will utilize resources from Woodbine’s management team to manage all aspects of the industry, including guarantees of purse payments for member tracks, staking programs and race schedules, as well as administering common racetrack rules and policies. ORM is charged with preparing a three-year business plan by April 1, 2018.
Several development initiatives were announced at both the Woodbine and Mohawk Park properties including the installation of a second turf course at Woodbine, slated to open in 2019.
More than $10 million was invested to winterize Mohawk Park allowing for year-round racing beginning in April, 2018. The refreshed facility will include new Woodbine branding, a renovated Terrace Dining Room completed with guest suites, internal building expansions and improvements to the paddock.
“We’re very excited about our commitment to year-round racing at Mohawk Park and further developing our ties within the local community,” said Jessica Buckley, President, Woodbine, Mohawk Park. “The significant upgrades to the property will only add to the great racing experience and I look forward to overseeing the ongoing development of the property to include additional lifestyle and entertainment options.”
Opening day for the 2018 Thoroughbred racing season, set for 133 dates, is scheduled for April 21.
Standardbred racing will continue its valedictory Woodbine meet through the winter returning Saturday, January 6 with a new post time of 7:10 p.m. each Monday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday.