Winnipeg’s Assiniboia Downs is ready to go for racing start-up on May 25 and just as every other track owner, management and horsemen’s group has had to present spectator-less racing and a litany of safety rules, CEO Darren Dunn has been working long, stressful hours.
In order to make the 50-day Assiniboia Downs season work, Dunn changed the days of the week that the track races, shaved a bit off the purses and will have fewer races. Also, because the track depends a lot on jockeys from Caribbean countries, some have not been able to return to Canada so the colony is a bit light. Third leading rider of 2019, Renaldo Cumberbatch, is among those jockeys unable to travel north just yet. He awaits travel restrictions to lift while he waits in Barbados.
In an interview with the ChrisD.ca site, Dunn said, “We will also have six races instead of the usual seven. This year, we had to turn away horses, something we never want to do, but it was just impossible to accept them all with fewer races this year. There was just no sense having herds of horses on the backstretch just standing around. People have to eat and if your horses aren’t getting into races, it’s just a waste of time and money. We wanted to make sure we took care of our local owners and regulars first.”
Assiniboia has been innovative in recent weeks, presenting a live workout cam that follows horses working and galloping on the main track, a move that has been welcomed by owners who are not allowed on the backstretch at this time. Read more here.
Also, the track staff will deliver free race programs to Winnipeg homes that register for the first three days of the season, May 25, 26 and 27.
(To receive the free programs, Winnipeg residents can register now by calling 204-885-3330 ext. 22).
At Century Mile in Nisku, Alberta, management at Century Casinos are hoping to open part of casinos with social distancing with horse racing to begin at the same time. Racing could also begin without the casino opening. Stage 1 of re-opening in Alberta’s economy as laid out by the province and health officials began yesterday, May 14, with hair salons, restaurants and other businesses opening.
“We are gearing up to reopen some of our dining and food and beverage venues during Stage 1,” said Geoff Smith, Century Casino senior vice-president of Alberta operations. “The combined entertainment experience of a day at the track complemented by our casino gaming floor and dining amenities is our desired product offering to begin when each is deemed safe to do so for our employees, industry partners and guests.”
There have been more than 400 horses on the backstretch at Century Mile training and working this spring.
Read more here.
In British Columbia, Hastings Racecourse has had horses on the track since May 1 and the province is said to begin stages to re-opening the economy on May 19 following the long weekend. More news on an opening of racing at Hastings should come next week.