Why are Assiniboia Downs horsemen so happy?


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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 03/05/2021 (760 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Colour horsemen happy. The purse for this year’s Manitoba Derby at Assiniboia Downs on the August long weekend will be $100,000, compared to $75,000 in past years. And purses across the board at every level have been increased as well.

“What gives?” we asked chief executive officer Darren Dunn.

“Horsemen were patient and supportive through a challenging season last year, forcing them to sacrifice a number of racing opportunities,” Dunn said. “We’re now in a position to return that support with these adjustments.”

Supplied photo by Jason Halstead Miss Imperial won the $25,000 Canstar Canada Day Stakes last year; this year the purse will be $35,000.

Despite the pandemic – or, perhaps, because of the pandemic – the Downs experienced its best-ever year in wagering last year ($63.3 million), with daily betting spiking to five times the previous year’s average. When the Downs began its season of live racing in late May (with no spectators in the stands, of course), few tracks on the continent were racing, so online wagering of Assiniboia Downs races took place as far afield as Germany, England, Mexico and Australia.

That didn’t mean the not-for-profit track was rolling in dough, however. Tracks earn a very small percentage of the wagers placed on their races from outside a province or state so it helped that the average daily wagering was $1.26 million.

It helped, too, that the Downs made a dramatic switch to racing on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday nights, when competition from other tracks is minimal. That schedule will continue this season, starting Mon., May 17, when live racing resumes at 7:30 p.m.

Racing will continue with no spectators in the grandstand but the Terrace Dining Room will be open with limited advance reservations (and, of course, COVID-19 restrictions will be in effect).

It will certainly be interesting to see whether bettors around the world who played Assiniboia Downs last year for the first time will result in the same interest this year. On Mondays and Tuesdays, the Downs will have competition from another Canadian track – Hastings Park in Vancouver. Then again, players may enjoy having another track to wager on in between Downs races.

Of course, the only way to wager off-track is with a betting account. And that’s something you can easily set up by phoning 204-885-3330, ext. 225.

Increased purses should result in an increase in the horse population and a generally higher class of horse. Added to this is the shutdown of racing in Saskatchewan which may prompt that province’s horsemen to make Manitoba their permanent home.

There are lots of reasons to look forward to Mon., May 17. Hope you’re part of it.

Ivan Bigg

Ivan Bigg
At the Races

Ivan Bigg is a railbird and handicapper at Assiniboia Downs.

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