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Board Spot For Jack Of All Trades

Published: May 28, 2018 10:55 am ET

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Tim Lake brings a unique perspective to his new role as a director with the Alberta Standardbred Horse Association.

Lake has worked as a racing official for Northlands Park in Edmonton. He’s currently working with the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission, supervising the operation of video lottery terminals at many outlets in northwestern Alberta. And, in his spare time, he’s a volunteer groom for the Rod Starkewski stable, currently in residence at Century Downs in Balzac, Alta. Lake is the first licensed groom ever elected to the board of the Alberta Standardbred Horse Association and one of a handful ever to have achieved that distinction in Canada.

“I’ve said ‘no’ on a number of occasions to serving as a director,” he recently told Peter Watts for his column on the Alberta Standardbred Horse Association website. “I much prefer to be in the background. But these are interesting times in Alberta. We appear to have found a good racetrack operator in Century Gaming. They’ve got one facility operating in Balzac, they own a couple of casino operations in Edmonton and in St. Albert and they are building the new Century Mile facility which will open in the spring of next year in Leduc. So, when I was asked by several people to let my name stand this spring, I decided I would try it. I have no particular agenda. In fact, I’m not sure yet what all I will be doing. But I decided I would try it and see if I could be helpful to growing the industry.

“It all began in 2007 when I was hired by Northlands Park as their operations manager. My job was to look after the track, the barns, and the main grandstand building. After about a year of them teaching me how to bet and how to read a program, my bosses suggested I should take a more active role. So, my wife, Clauzette Byckal, and I bought our first horse in 2008. She has always been listed as the owner and that’s the way we both like it.

“Clauzette lived on an acreage as a child and grew up with horses. The Starkewskis are happy to have us in the barn. We’ve done everything. We’ve done some breeding. I’ve cleaned out my share of stalls. And, the last couple of years, we’ve had some success on the racetrack.”

Lake brings a unique perspective to his new duties for ASHA. His involvement with Alberta Gaming, which began for the first time in 1997, gave him a perspective on the racing entertainment center model which was pioneered in this province by former Alberta Racing Corporation Chair Doug Mitchell and by the late Premier of Alberta, Ralph Klein. The model provided for slot machines at racetracks to contribute a portion of the revenues generated to support the live horse racing product.

“During my time at Northlands, I had occasion to be involved in the pari-mutuel part of the business. I oversaw the off-track betting operation. I’ve dabbled a bit in the racing operation side. So, I think that’s why I was nominated and elected. People seem to think I have something to offer.

“I’ve learned a lot over the ten years or so that I have been involved. I don’t really have a specific interest. I suppose that once we get into it and I can understand the issues, I’ll look to achieve a consensus. I’m interested in how we maintain and grow the business in Alberta. We’ve lost Stampede Park in Calgary and after this year we won’t have Northlands Park in Edmonton. We’ve survived some tough times in the province and I hope we’re going to see some better times in the next year and beyond.”

Another new director to join the ASHA board is Don McNeil. He’s been selected to head up the owner’s committee and he comes to the role with some experience and some definite ideas of what he’d like to see, going forward.

“Owners pay the bills,” McNeil told Watts. “We’ve got a range of issues to address, beginning with what it costs to be in the business and what we need to do to make the business stronger. I’m developing a survey I intend to send out to all the owners represented by ASHA. It’ll reflect some of my own ideas from my experience, to start. But I’m already getting calls and I’ve already started to listen. I want to hear what owners’ priorities are and I want to be accessible to hear what owners have to say.

“I got my start in this business when my father ran a dairy farm near Ottawa and had a few horses that raced at Rideau Carleton Raceway and at old Blue Bonnets in Montreal. I got away from racing when I took a job at Imperial Oil, and later, at Syncrude. When I retired in 2007, I went to the Harrisburg sale and bought a couple of broodmares in foal. At one point, I had seventeen horses. I’ve cut that back a bit, but I still have about nine horses, including one gorgeous foal that was born this spring. We don’t have enough horses and we need to improve breeding in Alberta. It’s all part of what needs to be done to make the business stronger.”

(With files from Peter Watts / ASHA)

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