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Racing Over At Kawartha Downs

Published: March 11, 2013 7:32 pm ET

Last Comment: March 12, 2013 7:34 pm ET | 30 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

After 40 years of harness racing, Peterborough, Ont.-area racetrack Kawartha Downs will finish hosting racing at the end of this month.

Last June, Kawartha Downs representatives stated that the track would close without alternative funding. On Monday, Harvey "Skip" Ambrose told CHEX TV that a deal could not be reached with the OMAFRA Panel to continue racing.

“We at Kawartha Downs are not able to meet those terms. At this point there’s no transition funding that can be secured.”

Ambrose could not disclose any financial terms due to confidentiality clauses. He took over Kawartha Downs in 1988.

“My goal since I’ve been in charge at Kawartha Downs for the last 25 years has always been to race horses as long as we can and, sad to say, ‘as long as we can’ is coming to an end.”

"It's tough," stated trainer Terry Heffernan, who is selling five of his six horses as well as his 50-acre farm. "It's even tough to come down here and clean stalls because I know what I love to do is coming to an abrupt end."

March 12, 2013 - 7:34 pmJust remember the government

Brett Riley SAID...

Just remember the government of the day sets the rules on gaming ,the horse industry can only do what the government allows it to ,and right now they want all your extra cash in every city they can plunk a casino in.

March 12, 2013 - 6:23 pmI can't think of no racing at

jim morgan SAID...

I can't think of no racing at K.D. I agree with Wayne Kilner. Just look at the old barns in the backstretch they have been there since the place opened. From racing with my Dad at the early 70's until working for Terry Heffernan in the 80's I have met a lot of great people.But all of this will come to an end thanks to the Liberals and El Cheapo.I think that Skip used only one can of paint, he just stretched it.

March 12, 2013 - 4:33 pmWhat Eldee Love says is

John Carter SAID...

What Eldee Love says is partially true. The purses paid out at many racetracks exceeds the total handle which is unacceptable. No business can operate this way. Yes as Mr. Love points out the public has lost interest in the race game but the truth is the majority of the public never went to the races anyway. What has killed the race game is the hardcore gamblers, the whales have lost interest in the race game and whose fault is this, to put it bluntly it is the race games fault or to be more precise The industry leaders or to be more accurate yet the lack of industry leaders because i see none of them, they are invisible with the possible exception of Jeff Gural.

I have said this for years the race game does not have the proper people in positions of power. They have no one who gets it when it comes to gamblers and what they want. Without the gambler at the end of the day you have nothing. For the last 20 years as there gambling base eroded they did nothing more then wave the white flag of surrender and didn't even try and compete with other forms of gambling to try and rebuild there gambling base, shame on them. In the last 10 to 20 years gambling world wide has exploded and the race game has done nothing to get there share of the gambling pie and i see no signs that is going to change anytime soon and the end result will be more and more track closures over the next 20 to 30 years. This is not rocket science, this industry needs real leaders who understand how to compete with other forms of gambling and how to re market the race game. Without that it is just going to be more of the same in the years to come.

March 12, 2013 - 4:16 pmrandy fife says the horse

randy fife SAID...

randy fife says the horse industry was at it peak everybody from grooms trainers drivers owners breeders were happy then all of a sudden appears three blind mice dalton duncan tanenbaum sorry 4 godfrey who coundnt run water decide toscrew the people who made the slots at racetracks begin i hope you will be able to sleep at night you will your snakes

March 12, 2013 - 4:09 pmYou are absolutely right

You are absolutely right Dave. However, just because KD is done it is no reason to not keep bugging your mpps - all three parties. Let the Liberals know how much they are hated. I understand Ambrose was offered more by OLG without races than he was if he wanted to keep racing. Premier Godfrey - where else? Only in Ontario.

March 12, 2013 - 3:16 pmDon't worry everyone Premier

Peggy Powell SAID...

Don't worry everyone Premier Wynne has our backs. We all have confidence in the Liberals and Paul Godfrey . Don't we? After all, it is just the Standardbred Industry. We can all start playing BINGO!!, instead of horses.

March 12, 2013 - 1:56 pmIt will take as much time as

Chuck Ibey SAID...

It will take as much time as is needed to move the slots to Delta Bingo and any other Bingo hall the Liberals wish to put them. You can rest assured a prominent Liberal will get as many as he wants in his bingo halls. jmo

Chuck Ibey

March 12, 2013 - 1:10 pmBlair Burgess nailed it. Too

ron francis SAID...

Blair Burgess nailed it. Too late now, but why didn't OLG monitor their SAR partners, and require that track operators put some of the windfall back into the track facilities and operations. Maybe it was part of a major sting operation. If so, job well done.

March 12, 2013 - 12:43 pmNon-profits are satisfied to

Allan Schott SAID...

Non-profits are satisfied to break even and are owned by agricultural societies. The for profit tracks are looking to make money. They are not interested in racing and breaking even.

March 12, 2013 - 12:42 pmPerhaps someone can explain

Allan Schott SAID...

Perhaps someone can explain this to me. I realize many don't want to leave Ontario but with the NY/NJ and Eastern PA circuit looking for horses to fill their cards, why doesn't anyone at the 'B' tracks decide to head South and give it a try?

I realize many of these horses will end up in the lower rungs down there but at least you will be racing and hopefully you will be able to build up your stock on going.

Is there something I am missing?

March 12, 2013 - 12:40 pmA day doesn*t go by without

Dave Nicol SAID...

A day doesn*t go by without some new addition to our ongoing doom and gloom scenario. A very prestigious award was issued to TROT magazine as the number #1 equine publication at the American Horse Publication awards ceremony, the FIRST harness racing magazine " EVER " As a once world class industry we should celebrate something we all took for granted! Loud accolades are due to Editor-In- Chief Darryl Kaplan and staff for never providing less than World Class Journalism to us each month! Darryl*s editorial in this months edition is a case in point. OPTIMISM as always! Thank you " all "

March 12, 2013 - 12:18 pmrandy fife says to those

randy fife SAID...

randy fife says to those people in charge of closing kd i hope you know how many lives your hurting just thinking out loud

March 12, 2013 - 10:45 amYeah, who knows how long it

Yeah, who knows how long it will take Peterborough and Government and partners to find an alternative place for those slots at KD ? Could be forever. Ambrose will probably get that cushy lease renewed. Looks like the score in the SNOBELEN/WYNNE game of "lets make Racing smaller but better" is: Government 1, Track management 1, Horse-people 0.

March 12, 2013 - 10:37 amAs most of this industry I

Dave Nicol SAID...

As most of this industry I have also raced at Kawartha Downs many times. Am I surprised they are shutting down? absolutely not! Other than the slot facilities the grandstand and backstretch were a disgrace to the horses and their handlers and fans. Now that slot machines are not mandatory, to be joined to racing horses this will be the new reality at some locations, unfortunately. As an industry we must shoulder much of the blame by shooting ourselves in the foot by choosing to have a variety of organizations negotiating on our behalf. Unlike the thoroughbreds we have weakened ourselves by doing so in my estimation! This is our democratic right to do so and we will now reap the consequences! Let me be very clear, I have nothing but high respect for anyone involved in these associations as they are doing what they believe is in the best interest of their membership! To all of you who will be leaving this industry through no fault of your own my sincere regrets. I am sure none of you will find employment that will replace the pride we all have in our once world class industry!

March 12, 2013 - 9:58 amCan't say I disagree with the

Can't say I disagree with the assessment Blair Burgess has made about my local track. Worked there for a while and enjoyed all of the people who worked at the track and all of the horsepeople even those who disagreed with me or downright hated me it was all part of the racetrack life. Trying to make change either with track management or with horsepeople who wouldn't listen was a hard task but there wasn't a day when I didn't think I should at least try and make a difference and had a lot of fun along the way. The announcement will be hard to swallow for some who still thought this day would never come and believe as someone who misses racing every day it's hard to accept. May have to break a promise I made to myself about never going to the track and since I was there the opening day back in '72 maybe i should be there closing day. Heck I was there the last day at Greenwood and Belleville might as well add one more to the list. Special thanks to Dalton McGuinty, Dwight Duncan and especially Paul Godfrey for making this possible.

March 12, 2013 - 9:21 amOn any day there is live

Eldee Love SAID...

On any day there is live racing at KD, you will see the same faces at the meet. For the last few years, purse distribution has exceeded the betting handle (and consequently the track share of the handle) by a substantial amount. From a mile away, it was apparent to anyone who cared to notice that this was a business in deep, deep trouble. The public simply lost interest in harness racing as entertainment. When you are trying to sell a product nobody wants you will eventually go out of business. It doesn't matter that the guys and gals making the product love their jobs. Surely this outcome can't be a surprise to anyone.

March 12, 2013 - 7:56 amThanks Blair. Nice to see

Thanks Blair. Nice to see someone agrees with me. Horsemen should have gone on strike years ago against this management. Trouble is, I understand the lease agreement for the slots gives Ambrose 4 mill per year so he continues to thumb his nose at everyone, including the government.

March 12, 2013 - 1:13 amIf Georgian doesn't make

If Georgian doesn't make it--and it may not. Most of us will not have a 5/8's track in which to race on. So when you aren't good enough for WEG hope your horse can get around tight turns. Guess this is what Wynne and Snobelen meant when they used their favourite description "smaller". I had my first driving win at KD and my father was born in Peterborough, so it was a track I thought of fondly. Usually would meet friends and family when racing there. It's a shame but this track is a case study in why we no longer have the SARP program. Management took unfair advantage of this great program reaping huge rewards, but usurped the spirit of the deal and put almost nothing back into the facility, nor did anything to promote the racing product. It is the actions of facilities like KD that angered the government and led to where we are now. First these tracks ruined the program NOW they are in charge of closing down the industry entirely. The economic activity, equine and otherwise, generated by Kawartha Downs in the Peterborough area will never be replaced. I don't care how many Bingo parlours and casinos they build.

March 12, 2013 - 12:18 amExactly what I was saying

Exactly what I was saying Tim. Everyone can yell and scream, then blame the Liberals but Id say the track owner was the driver of the bus that just ran us over. All of the other tracks seem to be striking deals but Kawartha could not? Better yet, details of the offer could not be released "as per policy"? Bogus. They could not be released because they dont want horseracing there and releasing the details of the offer would likely only further prove such.

March 12, 2013 - 12:07 amGoodbye Kawartha

dave lewis SAID...

Goodbye Kawartha ..............likely more to follow

March 11, 2013 - 10:08 pmCheck the facts, Kawartha has

Tim Bates SAID...

Check the facts, Kawartha has a lease agreement going forward to host slots.
Enough said?

March 11, 2013 - 9:33 pmOne word for this Liberal

greg price SAID...

One word for this Liberal Gov, ----- DESTRUCTIVE ----- Causing great and irreparable harm and damage. Hard working men, women, and horses. This Liberal Government needed to be out of power yesterday.... WHEN WILL OR PEOPLE THAT REPRESENT US DROP THE GLOVES... HATE TO SAY IT,, WERE IN TROUBLE.... WINDSOR,KAWARTHA, 5/8 TRACK CLOSED.... SARINA PROBLEY ON THE SAME PATH... NOT GOOD...CLOSEST TRACK FOR ME RIGHT NOW IS TWO HRS . Lots of fun. Sorry to the horsemen of Kawartha...very upseting...

March 11, 2013 - 8:50 pmWE need all horseman to show

wayne kilner SAID...

WE need all horseman to show up at Peterborough city council meeting march 18th. That means any one that has raced at Kawartha downs. lets give them a hard time. We have nothing to lose.

March 11, 2013 - 8:27 pmSo sad! I guess

Mary DeLuca SAID...

So sad! I guess Sudbury Downs will be next....too bad the $$$ terms weren't disclosed. Guess it's all about the Big the south!!

March 11, 2013 - 8:25 pmSkip took all his money put

wayne kilner SAID...

Skip took all his money put some paint on the fences and is laughing all the way to the bank and retirement. This man was one of the main problems with horse racing in eastern Ontario. But I also blame the government or ORC, they let this man take and take and take. Ok maybe he put two coats of paint on the fences.

March 11, 2013 - 8:24 pmWay to go Liberal Government.

Way to go Liberal Government.

Took away a 40 plus year tradition from our industry as if it was nothing.

Who is next and when and what are we going to do or is our next course of action to just watch and move forward as if nothing has be done to us as a group?

I know I feel as if I just got kicked in the gut today.

March 11, 2013 - 8:15 pmWatched the CHEX report. All

Watched the CHEX report. All sounds like such a farce. Im not sure when racing was ever the first priority there?! More things were done over the years to make racing as uncomfortable as possible at that place, but the horsepeople kept trucking on trying their best. By the sounds of things the only ones suffering in this deal are the horsepeople and the fans. They could have offered $150 million for racing funds per year and they still wouldnt have agreed on a deal. Racing was never in the interest of Kawartha Downs. Such a shame.

March 11, 2013 - 8:03 pmOntario horse racing "b"

Ontario horse racing "b" tracks are going to be half mile dominated.

Good luck.I quit

March 11, 2013 - 7:52 pmThe panel is obviously

Brett Riley SAID...

The panel is obviously catering to the Liberal party. Deals have only been made with non for profit tracks so far which was rumoured to be what would happen a year ago. The city of Peterbourgh made it clear it was a willing host last week without a referendum in which I believe made it harder for Kawartha Downs to negotiate the fate of horse racing. A summer meet would have been better than nothing but the panel has turned its back on eastern ontario. Good luck to everyone and best wishes.

March 11, 2013 - 7:36 pmMMMM, wonder if this perhaps

Carolyn Rae SAID...

MMMM, wonder if this perhaps has anything to do with Tanenbaum's purchase/ownership of the Delta Bingo Hall on Clonsilla Ave in Peterborough. You know the one that doesn't have the slot machines already on site!!!!

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