The P.E.I. Harness Racing Industry Association (PEIHRIA) held its annual meeting in front of a large crowd on Tuesday, April 11 at Red Shores at the Charlottetown Driving Park, providing a recap of the successful 2022 harness racing season and unveiling initiatives for 2023.
Chairman Blaine MacPherson spoke on behalf of the organization as he recapped the 2022 racing season on the Island. Highlights included a strong overall wager, enhanced overnight purses, a record Atlantic Classic Yearling Sale, increased breeder support programs and continued membership growth, particularly among youth. The audience also heard from the remaining directors that make up the PEIHRIA Board and the initiatives that were undertaken by their various organizations in 2022.
Deputy Minister of Finance Denise Lewis-Fleming spoke on behalf of the provincial government to those in attendance. The Deputy Minister reiterated the government’s support for the sport of harness racing and its importance to the agricultural and tourism sectors on Prince Edward Island. Highlighting Deputy Minister Lewis-Fleming's keynote speech was the announcement that the provincial government will be increasing its funding to the harness racing industry for the 2023 racing season. The announcement came as welcome news to those in attendance. Chairman MacPherson extended a thank you to Premier Dennis King and his government for their continued support of harness racing and the P.E.I. Harness Racing Industry Association looks forward to partnering with them to build a strong industry on the Island.
David MacKenzie, General Manager of Red Shores, and Lee Drake, Manager of Racing and Broadcast, detailed the activities planned for both Island racetracks for the 2023 racing season. A focus on guest experience and improved wagering options were keys to a record year for the organization in 2022. The focus for 2023 will see the organization unveil several new initiatives that will look to position Red Shores firmly as Atlantic Canada’s entertainment destination. Red Shores also unveiled a guaranteed commitment of $500,000 to the purse pool and the return of Atlantic Lottery as the presenting sponsor of the Gold Cup and Saucer, which will see the race enter its second year as one of two races in Canada to offer a $100,000 purse for Invitational pacers.
The Chair closed out the meeting with a series of enhanced initiatives for the 2023 racing season:
- An increased allotment to the overnight purse pool.
- The return of the Atlantic Invitational Series with an increased purse structure for Island hosted legs that make up the series and the Premier’s Cup final.
- An increased purse structure for the Governor’s Plate eliminations, consolation and final.
- An increase to base purses of the Joe O’Brien Stakes, the Lady Slipper Series, the P.E.I. Colt Stakes and the Home Hardware Maritime Breeders Stakes.
- The return of the trot development series, which includes the Island Ocean Trot, the PEIHRIA Grassroot Trot and the Allstar Cresting Trot.
- Continuation of the Matinee Racetrack Development Program.
- Focus on young driver development with the return of the Gamester – Pinkney Memorial Series.
- Enhanced breed development programs with increases to Island breeder's reward programs and the inception of a breed development fund.
Full details on the evening’s announcements can be found at peiharnessracing.ca.
(With files from PEIHRIA)