“Hey, what’s that sound? Everybody look what’s going down.”

Those are lyrics from a Buffalo Springfield song of the late 1960’s. But I can’t get the song out of my mind when I look at the amazing story of horse racing wagering right here in Alberta because what’s going down is absolutely phenomenal. For the first 17 days of the thoroughbred/quarter horse meet at Century Mile the average daily was $693,262.05. That represents a staggering increase of 280.91 per cent over last year’s numbers. And then this past Sunday Century Mile set an all-time record one-day handle of $1.182 million on a card that didn’t even have a single stakes race.

“Great!” succinctly summed up Paul Ryneveld, managing director of Edmonton’s Century Mile Racetrack and Casino and Calgary’s Century Downs Racetrack and Casino. “You have to go back to Canadian Derbies of yesterdays to find that kind of a handle in Alberta. And it wasn’t a strong card with six-horse fields for the first five races and two of those were for maiden two-year-olds.”

Ryneveld said two wagers were key on Sunday. The Pick 5, which had a two-day carry over, saw betting in excess of $214,000. And then when a longshot, Piper’s Joy ($26.10), won the first leg of the Pick 5 and knocked out a lot of bettors, the handicappers went right back to bet the Late Pick 4 to the tune of about $90,000. “Those two bets represented $300,000 of the total wagering for the card,” said Ryneveld.

Harness racing at Calgary’s Century Downs is also well ahead of last year with the $177,166 average for the first 17 days up 70 per cent from a year ago. “It’s a positive for sure,” said Fred Gillis, executive director for the Alberta Standardbred Horsemen’s Association. “You want bigger pools so that other tracks will take you and that people can bet more without affecting the odds. We’ve had a steady growth of 7-8 per cent each year and last year was a record season but this is exceptional.”

“I’ve been blown away by the handle the two tracks have been generating,” said Kent Verlik, Chief Executive Officer for Horse Racing Alberta. “It’s been amazing.”

From Curtis Stock, read more here: