view counter
view counter

Ken Warkentin's Blog


Racetrack Impossible

Published: September 16, 2011 11:28 am ET

Last Comment: September 22, 2011 9:13 am ET | 1 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

It’s easy to compare racetracks with restaurants, especially since most racetracks have dining facilities, and a food critic would have a field day in many of them.

I worked in restaurants for many years, and I have also often told people the best company I ever worked for was The Keg, top to bottom. Needless to say, The Keg franchise flourishes today.

The other night I stumbled on my new favorite show, Restaurant Impossible on the Food Network, and my new hero is the host, Chef Robert Irvine.

Harness racing desperately needs a Robert Irvine. The muscular, imposing Irvine is decisive, creative, intimidating and demanding. He fearlessly confronts problems with a no-nonsense approach. You can’t argue with him because he knows what he’s talking about. He is a leader, and you either follow him or get out of the way.



Artistic license aside, it works, and makes for compelling television. For those of you unfamiliar with the one-hour show’s premise, Irvine revamps failing restaurants, given just two days with only $10,000. Basically, Irvine swoops in like a drill sergeant, assesses the business, ruthlessly attacks and remedies the most serious issues, renovates using his talented design team, updates the menu, retrains staff and markets to the community. The result is a packed restaurant and a recipe for continued success.

Although, initially reluctant, the restauranteurs eventually see the light, surrender and buy into Irvine’s ambitious plan for each place. It’s a team effort and everybody has to be on board.



Irvine always starts by putting himself in the role of the customer to get first-hand experience of what works and what fails. Each restaurant’s transformation is dramatic, and that’s what Irvine is all about. Again, he dives in head first, kicks ass, ruffles feathers, then blows you away.

While it might not be conceivable for racing to get a Robert Irvine, the way he fixes money-losing restaurants can be an inspiration for not only racetrack eateries, but for racetracks themselves. Like Irvine, we can constantly listen to individual patrons, cater to their needs, dazzle them with exceptional product and service, in clean, comfortable surroundings, and consistently promote.

Sounds like a new series to me.

September 22, 2011 - 9:13 amAmerica is listening only to

America is listening only to cqasinos, video poker and forget about the pari-mutuel.

Why business is so good in France? The french horse society( the mother of all non lucrative associations, 300 racetracks) has confirmed that the purses will increase for 2012 up to plus 4.5%.

I am the only Canadian who won a trotting race at Paris Vincenne in 1975.

I have been writing a lot and published a plan in 1985. Mayor Jean Drapeau had ask me in 1980 to promote new ideas. The Quebec associtation, the provincial minister
did not respect their signatures and I never got paid for the work.

But the plan was confirming 25,000 jobs, and $1.5 billion from our pari mutuel across the province. Now Ontario has 65,000 jobs but the pari-mutuel is down, more, does not cover the annual inflation.

The french driver who made me the Canadian owner in France was Jean-Pierre Dubois and at the age of 71 , is spending some money in America and in Grand Valley, Ontario.

Look on the web for the Cheval Bleu, all his stallions in Europe, the nicest farms in the world and he still collecting the breeders awards with his two sons and great sons. He probably made around $20 millions dollars last year.

You want to know how he could make a great success? Ask me how to make the Ontario the greatest province in America.

Richard Lavigne
Laval, Quebec

view counter

© 2020 Standardbred Canada. All rights reserved. Use of this site signifies your agreement and compliance with the legal disclaimer and privacy policy.

Firefox 3 Best with IE 7 Built with Drupal