Wagering remains high as live racing ends
Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 20/09/2021 (617 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Assiniboia Downs’ 2021 live race season came to an end last week with everyone – fans, horsemen and management – marvelling at the way interest in local racing has taken off.
Wagering on the final night of racing last Wednesday topped $1.7 million; a 20-cent Jackpot Pick 5 ticket (predicting the winner of the last five races) paid $3,009.
In pre-pandemic 2019, it was considered a very good day if wagering reached $300,000. This season it was twice or three times that, depending on the day. In 2019, the Downs would have had trouble guaranteeing a pick-4 pool of $10,000 (predicting four winners in a row); this year $25,000 was the guarantee and that shot up to $50,000 on the final three nights of racing.
“It is so satisfying to be able to successfully reach the finish line once again against the continued backdrop of the COVID pandemic,” Downs CEO Darren Dunn told At the Races. “For the second consecutive year, the challenges were many but were once again met head-on by our team and the horsepeople who raced here.
“Among the many positives was the ability of Assiniboia Downs to retain our international partner wagering interest from last year and not having a single COVID positive case attached to our race meet in now back-to-back seasons.
“Those are milestones our industry should be very proud of.”
COVID-19, in fact, forced the track to find a niche in the racing timetable that would garner the best results – and that turned out to be Monday to Wednesday nights at 7:30 p.m., compared to its previous Wednesday, Friday, Saturday night schedule.
When Assiniboia Downs was one of the few tracks last spring to figure out a safe way to race, bettors around the world discovered the little track on the prairies in their computer wagering accounts. Although wagering dipped with increased competition, the betting figures remained substantially higher than pre-COVID times.
Just as importantly, local fans seem to enjoy it, too. Now they can go to the lake or take in other events on weekends without missing racing. Which means Monday to Wednesday night racing is a shoo-in for next year, Dunn said.
On the jockey/trainer front, Jorge Carreno, a Mexican who once rode in a Triple Crown race (the Preakness Stakes) was ASD’s leading rider with 80 wins and two-time leading trainer Jerry Gourneau added a third title, logging 58 trips to the winner’s circle.
Carreno chalked up eight stakes victories, one-quarter of the stakes offered, and rode the second-place finisher in the Manitoba Derby.
Although live racing has come to an end, the fun at the Downs -140 VLTs, simulcast racing, delicious dining -continue daily from 9 a.m. to 2 a.m. There’s also an exciting local reason to look forward to simulcast racing this fall – which will be the subject of next week’s column.
At the Races
Ivan Bigg is a railbird and handicapper at Assiniboia Downs.