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Year-Round Racing At Mohawk?

Published: October 2, 2015 3:43 pm ET

Last Comment: October 8, 2015 1:10 am ET | 21 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

Many horsepeople that race on the Woodbine Entertainment Group’s harness racing circuit have been clamouring for years for WEG Standardbred racing to only take place at Mohawk Racetrack in Campbellville and not at Woodbine Racetrack in Rexdale, Ont. According to a report, they may be getting their wish.

An item published in the Guelph Mercury has cited Jamie Martin, WEG’s executive vice-president of racing, as saying that Mohawk could be home to ‘year-round’ harness racing ‘in just a few years.’

The report also cites Martin as saying that there is a desire for a second Thoroughbred turf course to be installed at Woodbine, and that the likely location of that track would be where the harness course currently is.

The article has cited Martin as saying that the earliest that a ‘full-time’ move to Mohawk could take place would be 2017.

According to Martin, Mohawk would have to be upgraded if such a plan was to become reality, but he stressed that, at this point, the concept is just being discussed and analyzed.

"Mohawk would need to be upgraded," Martin was quoted as saying. "It's a nice summer facility. But we hope to be considered for a Breeders Crown event in the future. It would then have to be at Mohawk and it would have to be comfortable for a large crowd in late-October. I don't think we could do that today or else we would be [at Mohawk] this year for the Breeders Crown. So, there would be a fair bit of renovation work at Mohawk and work done at Woodbine.

"That's one of the things we're looking at, but I wouldn't say it's at all imminent. We're just doing some analysis."

(With files from the Guelph Mercury)

October 8, 2015 - 1:10 amMr Kelly. Im not sure what

Will Yamakva SAID...

Mr Kelly.

Im not sure what you think me cleaning stalls, has to do with anything. You do not think many of the people that bet the millions into the pools have either do you? Not sure what that had to do with anything.

I was at Mohawk in June. I have not lived in the Toronto area for decades now and was visiting friends in Milton and we stepped over to the track. The backstretch being gone, and the small horesman, are not really my concern in this discussion. You see, those horesman, need me, and many like me. The kind that pump our money through the mutuels. Without us, there is no horseman at all. Wagering and keeping the numbers at a profitable level, are needed and that means keeping the bettors happy. You see with us, there is no you, and we have options. We CAN bet in other avenues, on other tracks, or other avenues of gambling.

Despite how empty Woodbine is, they do draw an alright crowd there when the weather is decent, and you can get there in a reasonable amount of time if you live in Toronto.

See, one thing forgotten in all this conversation is, should the sport grow, and should the horseman and track owners, and government all get into the marketing and promotion game, and the sport some how catches on, you do not want to alienate those that take public transit. If you live in Toronto.... Mohawk is unreachable. One thing that made Greenwood so great, was that you could go to the track on the TTC. The buses were packed when my dad took me there as a kid. Woodbine? Well.... people DO take the bus from Islington subway station but because that ride is so long, its less than they would if the track was closer. Either way...... should the sport regain popularity, and Mohawk was the only option, you just screwed anyone that does not drive.

October 6, 2015 - 10:20 pmGive the fans action packed

carlo renon SAID...

Give the fans action packed competitive racing instead of this single file stuff. It will not matter where the racing is fans will come. Keep racing like they have for the start of this Woodbine meet, with middle halves in a minute or more and drivers happy to be in a straight line and the fans will leave. PERIOD!

October 6, 2015 - 4:27 pmI spent 20 winters watching

I spent 20 winters watching races at Greenwood and even in the coldest weather would go outside for 2:02 or so to watch the races - if I wasn't going to do that I'd stay home, same as I do when they race at Woodbine in any temperatures. Surely, people won't be sitting outside all day or night, but plenty will go out to watch the action for that couple of minutes. What about November and March? Is it -25 in those months?

October 6, 2015 - 4:15 pmHave you ever been to

Have you ever been to Woodbine on a race night? You could roll a bowling ball from one end of the grandstand to the other and not hit a soul. It's not a product anyone will ever be attracted to simply because the action is SO far away. Millions, billions in close proximity...wouldn't matter,

October 5, 2015 - 8:38 pmWill:Have you been to Mohawk

Tom Kelly SAID...

Will:Have you been to Mohawk lately?Its a five hour drive for me! I last was there as a groom for a trainer friend of mine .The backstretch is gone same as flamboro .There is nowhere to bet, same as flamboro.What kind of fun is it to you if you want to sit at home and bet on the computer? How can I help with the mutuels ? I don't like the betting on Internet ! How do you ask the small horsemen to continue at Mohawk drive five hours in the winter for the12,000 purse? How many stalls have you cleaned?

October 4, 2015 - 9:19 amI think I am going to address

Will Yamakva SAID...

I think I am going to address my opinions on some of the previous comments.

Mr Riga said, "The 7/8 mile tracks are brutal and kill any flow to a race. It produces nothing but boring racing with no flow to speak of."

This is not the fault of the horses, the drivers here are more than content in falling in line, someone moves at the half, and then they all try the leader in the lane. Its the Canadian way. Watch the first few weeks of our guys that moved down there, they all tucked in and got shuffled and what not. The Meadowland guys come here, they force you to pop and pull or get out an going. Its NL vs AL type of racing, and its the rules/players that make it what it is. NOT the circumference of the track.
Mr Paniccia stated. "The atmosphere is so a upgrade than Woodbine and you are close to the action and it feels like home."

This is only on big nights, and it does not last all that long on regular nights. I was there this year on a super nice, perfect weather Friday night. Come the 8th race, I could have lit myself on fire, and I think maybe 40 people were there to put it out and I might have died. There is NOTHING to do or see between races there at Mohawk. NOTHING. If you are dragged there by a friend and are not into racing, you might as well just sit and play "statue".


Mr Blackburn, wow, great post, you think like someone that is a business man first, horseman second, and that is what should pilot the thinking here. The game needs the fans and bettors, and moving them away from the biggest city in the province, is kinda silly.

Shannon Henry said, "The Grandstand at Mohawk is "Next door" to the paddock.... something of importance to the owner paying the bills on the horse...easy access"

If the sport is going to expand and try to lure in new fans, you want the best facility for them, the best experience for them, who cares that the owners might have to walk an extra 4 minutes?

and Shannon also said this, "There is no doubt that Mohawk Raceway trumps Woodbine when it comes to Standardbred racing and as many have said for some time."

The most important number does not reflect this, and that is the handle? If the handle was much bigger at Mohawk, Id agree, but since its essentially the same, why would you want to move away from the much larger population?

Finally.... "Gary,
What does it matter if you have a racetrack venue in a town with a population of 118 or 3 million if no one is in the grandstand."

The answer is REALLLLLLLLY easy. Because if you want to aggressively advertise and promote your product, you want to take advantage of the proximity to the larger number of people. You do realize that when you go to Mohawk, your night is over when the races are done if you do not go to the slots. You have to drive minimum 30 minutes to either go see a movie, hit a bar, go to a restaurant for late night food. Hell.... my mom hates racing and can go to the mall or shopping when my dad hits Woodbine, my dad doesnt even invite my mom out when he hits Mohawk

October 4, 2015 - 2:24 amNow, I understand that the

Now, I understand that the on-track experience is better at Mohawk; no turf or polytrack, paddock is closer, horses are closer, but part of the reason why that is so great is because Mohawk races in the summer months, when the weather is lovely and people want to be outside.
Do people want to be outside in the middle of January when it's -25 degrees outside? Hell no. So what does it matter that Mohawk let's you be closer up when no one wants to be close up that time of year? It's a pretty flawed argument for winter racing there.

October 3, 2015 - 3:50 pmFor whatever it is worth:

Joe Travis SAID...

For whatever it is worth: Watching the races at Woodbine is like watching an airplane in the distance 100 kilometers away. Simulcasting of many races is how most people currently enjoy viewing the races. For anyone visiting the racetrack Mohawk is better.

During the summer, why not place the horses in the middle behind the the grandstand, or in between the grandstand and the current race paddock, such as I remember from the Meadowlands years ago.

The only way harness racing is going to attract new fans is to let the fans come closer to the real horses, not the artificial screen. We have too many people who play video games; let the people see the horses close up.

Finally, horses seem to come and go, so why not develop fan nights following the top drivers? When a fan follows Randy, Jody, Doug, James, or another driver, then the fan may want to come to see the horses that are competing that night.

Drivers develop followings similar to baseball players, if you like your driver, then you may drive to Mohawk have a close-up view of the horses, and root for your favorite driver (especially if you are having a difficult time handicapping the long-shot winner).

October 3, 2015 - 10:49 amI have a few questions, why

John Hill SAID...

I have a few questions, why is Mohawk good enough for the North America Cup, The Metro and all the other major races at WEG but not the Breeders Crown ? Where would you rather take your family (future fans)to enjoy a night at the races, Mohawk or Woodbine ? Wouldn't you have the same access to the 3 million people of Toronto through simulcasting as you do in the summer months when there is racing at Mohawk as well as expanding your fan base to Hamilton, Cambridge and surrounding areas ? Woodbine is for gamblers and Mohawk for true fans of the sport and we need both. Woodbine fans will continue to bet Mohawk and Mohawk will bring us future fans so I vote for year round racing at Mohawk.

October 3, 2015 - 8:30 amAs I stated in my original

robert erie SAID...

As I stated in my original post. Ms Henry reiterated that. Spend the day at Woodbine and watch the crowds clear out after the thoroughbreds are done and watch a small amount trickle in for Harness racing. Woodbine racing for standarbreds is dead wood. Case closed. Some make it sound like Mohawk is a million miles away from Toronto when in fact it is only a 29 minute drive down the 401. LOL. Mohawk is also only a 30 second drive to a main highway artery. As stated, once again there is no compelling argument to stay at Woodbine, yet there are numerous ones to keep racing all year round at Mohawk. Cant wait till it happens.

October 3, 2015 - 6:23 amGary is 100% correct.

Sheldon Rose SAID...

Gary is 100% correct. Besides, not everyone is stabled near Mohawk. Instead of wasting money on modifications, have WEG buy Georgian Downs, promote the sport and have year round racing there. If WEG really wants to waste money, they could make a deal with the Markham Fair board. They have lots of land. Build a proper track and grandstand and have year round racing there. They'd make all their money back in no time at all, just from the casino that I'm sure they'd also build there. And another thought while I am on a rant. Why isn't there harness racing at Ajax Downs?

October 3, 2015 - 1:28 amI for one totally support

Joe Riga SAID...

I for one totally support Gary's argument here.When racing was going on at Greenwood I attended quite regularly even during weeknights in winter. Now you are dreaming if you think I would leave my house in the middle of winter for a long trek down the 401 to Mohawk on a Tuesday night..I wouldn't even do it during the's just too far a drive for's might be great for the owners but not for the fans and bettors.. I honestly don't mind Woodbine that much.. I do wish it was a 1 mile track but I could make the same argument against Mohawk..Yes I know I can get a little closer to the action at Mohawk but sorry that's not enough of an enticement the for me to make the trip..Also as Mr. BLACKBURN AND BROWN so correctly state if you are trying to sell your product you want to do it where you get the most bang for your buck and with all due respect Toronto wins that argument against Campbellsville everytime..If you're gonna spend money spend it at Woodbine which as was stated earlier is Canada's premier track for either breed..Turn it into a 1 mile track and watch it take off..

October 2, 2015 - 11:09 pmGary, What does it matter if


What does it matter if you have a racetrack venue in a town with a population of 118 or 3 million if no one is in the grandstand.? Who is actually watching the TV's at Woodbine.? You can count the number of people on your finger's that are in that grandstand. Never once did I say that I don't see the destruction done by some track owners but as a horse racing participant we have to "keep the dream alive" so to speak and work with what the industry is throwing at us. If that means that the paying customer will be happier at Mohawk then so be it. Yes, Mohawk does not get the Grandstand full either, but it is a better venue for racing and I bet you if it were to go full time, it would be successful. I agree with you that the worst thing WEG ever did was close Greenwood, but this is now. WEG will make money wether it be wagering simulcast at Woodbine, Grand river, Mohawk, Flamboro, at a Champion's Betting Lounge, at one's home on HPI, wherever. That still does not justify keeping a racetrack open that gets revenue from the thoroughbred and closing down Mohawk that would be strictly harness racing. The title of the article is Year-Round Racing at Mohawk.? Not, Have the Owner's of Ontario's Racetrack's Failed You? Which would clearly be another topic to discuss. As far as endorsing the savings on the $50.00 shipping cost, if the racetrack owner's want to cut corner's on expenses then why shouldn't the horsemen...

October 2, 2015 - 9:56 pmShannon You own a business,


You own a business, where do you want it, Cambelleville, population of 118 or Toronto population of 3 million? Ask youself why they watch the TV's during harness racing at Woodbine? They are allowed to watch and wager on those tracks because WEG makes money hand over fist off of it. They kill their own product but line their pockets still. It blows me away that nobody can see this. Heres a memo to Ontario Harness Racing, ask WEG to turn off all simulcasting at its facilities during live harness racing. Ask them to tear a hole in the grandstand and move the paddock in the middle of it. Then you will see harness racing take off again. I am so sick of listening to people who fail to see the destruction of this once proud industry due to track owners who have other agendas and put harness racing second at their facilities. WEG sells a track in the middle of the city that handled 3 million a night on track without simulcasting and flash forward to 20 years later and the only track they have that has harness racing is a track in a small village that handles nothing live. Thats the progress you want to endorse to save $50 on shipping, please give me a break.

October 2, 2015 - 9:08 pmHave you Dr. Brown been in

Have you Dr. Brown been in the grandstand at Woodbine during a harness racing meet.? You stated your your self Sir that the fan's watch TV and that Woodbine is a Thoroughbred Track. Perhaps Mohawk racing would be better for the betting people as they have a little more intimate hands on with the horse as they see them up close. A little less trucking cost is your argument as to why one would want to stay at Mohawk.? Is this the same cost as you would you say "$50.00 service call close to home but a $100.00 for the further you travel..?? Add that up.? How would your clients feel.? As you said, trucking... " It's not "the importance in the scheme of things"..Would you say this for your own business.? What matter's here Sir are these...... The Grandstand at Mohawk is "Next door" to the paddock.... something of importance to the owner paying the bills on the horse...easy access. Close to the action of their horse on the racetrack. A better environment to bring friends and family to view the races. We have never been a "grab your binocular's and watch us go" kind of sport, which is what one has to do at Woodbine. I Sir believe that your reasons as to why one should not consider Mohawk over Woodbine are not valid and that if harness racing was kept at Mohawk Only, it would attract a bigger circle of owners and the Standardbred horse people could turn this venue into a year long successful business, as one could concentrate only on the harness racing and add special events when needed.There is no doubt that Mohawk Raceway trumps Woodbine when it comes to Standardbred racing and as many have said for some time... If only harness racing could stay at Mohawk.....Here's the chance to listen to the people that actually put on the show.... Ask any one around...... Mohawk "IS" the fine dining of harness racing Dr. Brown, you cannot say the same for Woodbine.....

October 2, 2015 - 9:02 pmFirst they sell Greenwood

First they sell Greenwood now they talk about ending racing for standardbreds at Woodbine. Last time I checked there were approx 3 million people in the GTA. At Mohawk most nights when it is just overnights the crowd is sparse. You could actually close 3/4 of the area as it is not in use most live nights. Thats the venue you want to host world class racing? If you polled 100 people in Toronto they wouldnt know which way Cambelleville was. Ask those same 100 where Woodbine is and it will be close to unanimous they would know where it is. So ask yourself this, where would you want your harness track?

There has been talk of Casino expansion by WEG at Woodbine which would attract even more people. Instead of giving up on the standardbreds why not spend some money amd make the standardbreds more accessible instead of having the paddock in Brampton. How is one to become a fan of the game when there is no interaction allowed. The place has never ever tried to entice more harness fans since the day it opened to race standardbreds. Spin it whatever way they wish, those who have been around know whats gone on and it all falls on the ones you call WEGS head honchos. What are they going to do with this 15 million dollar paddock, store tractors in it like the other 12 million dollar one that collects cobwebs?

Moving standardbreds to Mohawk fulltime will be the beginning of the end of major harness racing in Ontario.

October 2, 2015 - 8:52 pmBest place to watch is at

Craig Conley SAID...

Best place to watch is at Mohawk. Love Woodbine, but to watch is not very good for fans. We should be as close as we can to the sport we love.

October 2, 2015 - 6:34 pmThis is my first time I've

Glen Brown SAID...

This is my first time I've ever commented on a Standardbred Canada article.
I do so because it upsets me that the our people are "clamoring" for a year round season at Mohawk.
I very much enjoy Mohawk racing, but let's look at the total picture.
I know people say the track is too far away at Woodbine. Let's face it - wherever that are most fans watch the TV's.
Do we, as an industry, want to abandon exposure of our sport in the largest city in Canada, at the county's finest race track? What's to be gained? Maybe a little less trucking costs, but that's not really that important in the whole scheme of things.
We've seen where an opening and closing of a meet/track stimulates interest and activity by fans. Yonkers and others just go on and on with no real high points. Do we want that at Mohawk?
There would have to be a lot of modification at Mohawk to house The Breeders Crown, arguably our biggest feature night. With 12 events and 10 horses in each, Mohawk dining cannot come close to meeting the onslaught of visiting owners, their families and friends, never mind our regular patrons, and all this expense for one night? Let's be realistic.
I known that many or our Thoroughbred friends want us out of Woodbine. For what?
To turn our 7/8 track into a grass surface because they bet a little more on grass races. They have a 1 1/2 mile grass track now (which is used late spring to early fall and not used when there's a rainy day). That would be the same on our 7/8 track.
Plus, they may be having more trouble filling races than we do. Will adding an extra 7/8 mile of grass help?
Our Standardbred people should give this some extra thought, even though I'm not sure your views will matter. Talk to our Standardbred Director on WEG. See if this is all really necessary and in the best interest of our industry.
Dr. Glen Brown

October 3, 2015 - 5:07 pmI would love to have year

Ben Paniccia SAID...

I would love to have year round racing at Mohawk. Such a better venue for Harness racing. The atmosphere is so a upgrade than Woodbine and you are close to the action and it feels like home.

Benbar Stables

October 2, 2015 - 5:28 pmGREAT NEWS!!! Mohawk is

robert erie SAID...

GREAT NEWS!!! Mohawk is standardbred friendly, Woodbine is not. You could practically touch the horses at Mohawk, Woodbine you can't. Mohawks paddock is right beside the grandstand, Woodbine's is not. Beautiful drive to Mohawk, Woodbine not. There are many catalysts to have racing year round at Mohawk, Woodbine not. You get what I'm saying? Mohawk would be prime for local expansions also. Community would thrive as it so deserves. Oh and one more very important point to make. During a race or pre race or just being outside enjoying the weather, The racing industry and mostly the horses will not have hear anymore NOISY PLANES AGAIN!!!!

October 2, 2015 - 4:30 pmIf they are going to do that

Joe Riga SAID...

If they are going to do that I would hope they have the good sense to convert it to a mile track. As I have so often said harness racing is best on a full mile track like the Meadowlands. The 7/8 mile tracks are brutal and kill any flow to a race. It produces nothing but boring racing with no flow to speak of.

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