After just 18 races over three days to begin its 2020 racing season, Assiniboia Downs realized $4.4 million in wagering, a stunning amount for Winnipeg’s flagship track. As the first track to open to Thoroughbred racing in Canada since the COVID-19 pandemic shut down businesses, entertainment and sports in March, Assiniboia was a big draw on the evenings of May 25-27.

“We are so very pleased with the encouraging start,” said Assiniboia CEO Darren Dunn. “We felt that there would still be some first mover advantage that would exist and certainly we know that will wane as more competition comes back on.”

Dunn said the fast break from the gate for Assiniboia Downs “helps in a meaningful way as it relates to revenue contribution” but notes that the track only receives a single-digit percentage of the wagering dollars, all of which is currently bet through Woodbine Entertainment’s HorsePlayer Interactive platform (

“It is far less of a return than onsite wagering and the related spend that occurs on food and beverage and gaming machine play when the public is present,” said Dunn.

Assiniboia and other tracks which are carried through HPI pay a fee to access the platform. “We get to use a very high-end and robust online suite that is very well received in what is considered here in Manitoba as our ‘home market area.'”

Manitoba is moving to its Phase 2 of re-opening businesses on June 1 and that includes the MTS Iceplex which gives Dunn hopes that his track can open the dining room and lounge in the next month or two.

One challenge facing Dunn and Assiniboia currently is his jockey colony, which is on the lean side since some of the top riders have not been able to return to Canada from the Caribbean where they live.

Assiniboia has a 50-day season and plenty of equine stars including the undefeated Hidden Grace who is 9 for 9. The 4-year-old by Going Commando worked four furlongs in a speedy 48 flat on May 28 as she prepares for 2020 debut.

For more on Assiniboia’s opening:


The Big Numbers Assiniboia Downs Doesn’t Really See