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Racing Returning To Assiniboia Downs?


Published: January 9, 2012 1:55 pm ET

Last Comment: January 9, 2012 3:42 pm ET | 1 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

"We've been talking with Minister Stan Struthers and they seem optimistic that something's going to work out for us, that they can get us some lotto money, but it takes time and they're not in a big rush to do it."

The quote above comes from Keith Earle, President of Manitoba Harness Horseman Inc. With no major harness racing venue presently running in Manitoba, Assiniboia Downs would be a logical choice as a primary location for the province's industry that has long struggled to find a permanent home. Will standardbreds return to Assiniboia, and are they welcome? On today's Trot Radio, Norm Borg speaks to Earle and Harvey Warner, President of the Manitoba Jockey Club - owners and operators of the track - for an update. Earle stated that the government would like the two sides to discuss the idea of harness racing at Assiniboia in earnest.

"The head of the lotteries, Winston Hodgins, that's what he has recommended - that we get together and talk and that another group be formed for all racing, not just the thoroughbreds."

Warner recalls that before the Manitoba Jockey Club took control of Assiniboia Downs, the track handled both breeds unsuccessfully.

"When we came into being, there was both - under the previous operator, Jim Wright, who was a private owner, he attempted to coexist with harness in the winter and thoroughbreds in the summer and as we all know that story unfortunately went into bankruptcy. When we made a presentation to government, their instructions to us [was that] your mandate will be for thoroughbred racing to be viable and survive and leave the harness racing to us.

"I think overall climate was an issue, people don't want to come out in the wintertime and it was generally more known as a rural sport."

According to Warner, the area around the track is developing quite rapidly and the provincial government could be looking to create a larger entertainment complex in the vicinity of the track involving the Red River Exhibition. That could bode well for standardbred racing.

"We have the Red River Ex next to us, the Winnipeg Jets' owners have opened up a four-plex for ice hockey and a number of things just down the road from us. There's a good bit of commercial development happening out in this area as well as a longer-term plan as to what happens with the Red River Ex to make it more of a year-round facility as well. I think the ideal thing that government is looking at is if the pie is expanded, how can it be of benefit not only to horse racing but the Red River Ex - who's also a non-profit agricultural organization.

"Under the umbrella, however that would come out, the likelihood is you're going to see that it would be all-encompassing in the horse racing business."

To listen to the full interview with Borg, Earle and Warner, click the play button below.

Episode 246 – Racing in Manitoba - Is there room at Assiniboia Downs for standardbreds?
Audio Format: MP3 audio
Host: Norm Borg

(photo courtesy

Please note that the opinions expressed in the featured interview are those of the participants and do not necessarily reflect Rideau Carleton Raceway and/or Standardbred Canada.

January 9, 2012 - 3:42 pmMuch as I would love to see

Much as I would love to see harness racing at Assiniboia, I know where the thoroughbred people are coming from. The purses at ASD right now are terrible. God awful to say the least. The thoroughbred people wouldn't want to share what little they have in purse money with the standardbreds because it would only decrease their purses more.
Harness racing at ASD would be great though. A 2 turn race with the longest stretch in Canada. If you had decent quality horses, the races would be great. It'll be interesting to see what happens.

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