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MacKay Leaves Kawartha Downs

Published: April 19, 2018 4:05 pm ET

Last Comment: April 20, 2018 3:34 pm ET | 4 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

Heather MacKay, the marketing director at Kawartha Downs, has announced that she has left her role with the racetrack.

The industry veteran made the announcement on Thursday afternoon (April 19) via social media.

The contents of her announcement appear below.


It is with sadness and regret that I announce my departure from my role supervising horse racing at Kawartha Downs. I have been honoured to serve in this position at my hometown track for the past four years and have been very proud of what we have been able to accomplish during that timeframe.

To Jeff Leal, Greg Walling and Steve Lehman, who were responsible for bringing myself and Ian Fleming to Kawartha at the same time, I thank you so much. I so appreciated the opportunity to once again work alongside Ian, a good friend and one of the most respected administrators in harness racing.

The horsepeople, harness staff and fan base at KD are exceptional and I feel privileged to have been able to work with all of you. I am extremely proud of what we have been able to accomplish during my tenure. We have seen exceptional growth of the fan base with many newcomers attending each race night. Our Kids’ Club has been a huge success, making a night at the races a fun family experience for all. Last year alone we had more than 1,000 youngsters visit our activity centre, an average of 60 kids per race night.

I’m proud we were able to introduce a signature race to KD’s racing calendar, the Goodtimes Invitational Trot, named for the incredible Hall of Famer who began and ended his career at Kawartha Downs. Sincere thanks to Vicky and John Bax for going above and beyond to help in whatever I asked of them for each of the Goodtimes races.

I’m grateful for the Hughes family for allowing us to host the official retirement for the incomparable San Pail, one of the greatest trotters this country has every seen. What a thrill it was for KD fans to bid the superstar one final farewell. Add the great Billyjojimbob to those names and you have the Hall of Fame trotters who started their careers at our racetrack and made up our Titans of Trot evening introduced last season.

I have served in many roles in this industry and enjoyed them all, but this was special as I could witness the results of our efforts every race night and those affected respond so positively. I am so sorry to the fans of Kawartha, new and old, who make each race night a special one. I will miss you all.

I’ve been extremely fortunate to have been surrounded by some wonderful co-workers. Joy Brown is one of the most competent people I’ve had the ‘joy’ to work with as well as her husband, Gord. As Kawartha’s leading driver, Gord was phenomenal to work alongside, whatever I asked for in terms of promotions he was game. Now retired, he served as a member of the marketing team and was a wonderful ambassador for Kawartha and was always the first to pitch in when there’s work to be done. Jim Huck was also a tremendous resource given his history at KD.

To the entire harness staff, from track crew, to the backstretch bunch, tremendous tellers, security and food and beverage, I thank you all for taking such pride in your jobs and serving our customers well. You’ve all been so kind to me and it has felt like a team effort each and every race night. To the horsepeople, God bless you, you step up. Everything I have requested of you to make our customers’ experience that much more special, you’ve done and I thank you for it.

I’m fortunate to have three incredible friends/sisters in Lori Ferguson, Donna Roberts and Lindsay Bax, the dream team. I could never have accomplished what we have without you all. The workload is always much lighter when your trusted people have your back. I can’t name all of the friends and family members who have pitched in when I’ve been short staffed, your support is much appreciated.

The past two years have been very trying at Kawartha. First there were new owners in the slots area that from the start indicated their desire to move it into Peterborough; for many months there was the uncertainty of the ownership of the overall facility and three days before our first scheduled race of the year last season the track went into receivership where it remains to this day. New management was brought in to run a facility whose core industry was not familiar. To say it has been a challenge is an understatement. I leave knowing I did everything I possibly could and had no other recourse.

To everyone I had the pleasure to work with or meet during my time at Kawartha Downs, I thank you for a wonderful experience and hope our paths cross again.


April 20, 2018 - 3:34 pmAll the best in where your

All the best in where your path leads you now Heather. The end of SARP was a trying time for every racetrack and horse person. This is when you entered the picture at Kawartha, and while the purses and race dates were negatively impacted in a big way, you were able to turn the tables on everything else. The crowds grew to sizes not seen in the entire existence of the SARP program; the on-track promotions and special events for both fans and horsepeople exponentially grew; the spirits of all in attendance and the atmosphere flourished. Unfortunately we have now lost the heart and soul of racetrack. You made your vision for the racetrack come to life and inspired that passion in many of its loyal fans and horsepeople alike. Thanks for your dedication to make it the best possible destination for all who attended. We may find out the true irony of losing you sooner then we all want.

April 20, 2018 - 12:24 pmBarry and I can't thank you

debbie bird SAID...

Barry and I can't thank you enough for everything you have done, not only for Kawartha Downs but us personally as well, in helping organize the cooler presentation, along with Jim, for my Mom's hundredth, and what was to be her last, birthday .
You always go above and beyond Heather, and that is what made Kawartha so successful. As Gord said, "your shoes will be hard to fill". We don't think anyone can.
We wish you the best in whatever you pursue. Barry and Debbie

April 20, 2018 - 6:41 amHeather. Your devotion,

Gord Brown SAID...

Heather. Your devotion, dedication, tireless efforts and hours have not gone unnoticed! You were the greatest asset to Kawartha ever. After seeing first hand all you have done there. Those will be massive shoes to fill if Kawartha decides to go forward. All the best in your future endeavors. Little over a month away and not a peep. The future doesn't look overly bright.

April 19, 2018 - 8:43 pmThanks for everything

Jack Darling SAID...

Thanks for everything Heather. One of the most important things in our business today is bringing out new fans and customers. You showed us all how its done and that it can be done. It was great to see the crowds of fans there at Kawartha Downs on a Sat. night. All the best to you always. Jack and Ann


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