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A Fresh Start At Kawartha Downs

Published: June 14, 2017 2:42 pm ET

Last Comment: June 15, 2017 6:51 pm ET | 1 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

It was recently announced that Kawartha Downs’ new general manager, Orazio Valente, will be getting acquainted with track’s loyal race-goers this Saturday evening (June 17). The addition of Valente to the fold at Kawartha is one of a couple of exciting changes at the Peterborough-area track, as it has also become known that ownership of the popular raceway changed hands last month.

As a recent article by The Peterborough Examiner explains, Kawartha Downs entered court-ordered receivership on May 18 after the track’s former owner, ‘Skip’ Ambrose, was forced to relinquish control of the raceway. Ambrose had been unable to get out from underneath roughly $97 million in debt that his businesses owed, collectively.

Valente, who is the president of the Courtice Group, is now overseeing 16 of Ambrose’s companies that have fallen under receivership. Several of Ambrose’s companies had fallen into receivership in 2015, but, at the time, Kawartha Downs was not one of them. The raceway went into receivership just last month when a loan from a private lender was not paid back in time.

In speaking with Trot Insider, Valente said that he is very excited about the opportunity to lead such a great operation with such rich history, stating, “We are working diligently to take a great product and make it even better."

Orazio Valente, pictured trackside at Kawartha Downs on June 10, 2017

“Our goal is to improve our customers' experience, and hopefully attract new fans to the horse racing industry,” Valente explained. “To that end, we have already started to make some improvements, including updating our menu (and significantly lowering some of our prices); upgrading our audio/visual infrastructure and we are looking to modernize our betting terminals.”

Regardless of the changes that are occurring behind the scenes, Orazio has conveyed that it will be “business as usual” at the Fraserville, Ont. track, which annually proves to be one of the most popular entertainment destinations in the Peterborough area. In total, the five-eighths-mile raceway will host 18 programs of live harness racing this year, which will be bolstered by numerous marketing and promotional events crafted by Kawartha’s respected team. A NASCAR racing event is also expected to bring a large crowd to the track on September 16.

Strictly on the racing side of things, the track continues to do exceedingly well in terms of both attendance and on-track handle. The addition of legendary local driver Gord Brown, in a race-analyst capacity, has gone over very well with fans, as has the track’s popular kids activity centre. The centre offers games and activities each race night, and has signed up 245 new kids through three race dates thus far in 2017. ‘Kokanee,’ a pony that has proven to be quite the favourite amongst the kids, has had his hands full mingling with the youngsters, posing for photos like a regular superstar.

In an effort to connect with racing fans that have supported the track so well over the years, Valente has let it be known that he will be barbequing hot dogs for patrons at the track this Saturday (June 17). He is looking forward to meeting many of the track’s loyal and new patrons and hearing their suggestions and feedback.

All burgers and hot dogs aside, Valente also told Trot Insider that he wants to take a hands-on approach when it comes to further integrating Kawartha Downs into the current fabric of racing in the province.

“I will be spending the next several weeks reaching out to various stakeholder groups in order to better understand the current issues and working towards mutually beneficial solutions,” Valente said. “The support I have received from the horse racing community thus far has been overwhelming, and I look forward to meeting the challenges ahead.”

(With files from The Peterborough Examiner)

June 15, 2017 - 6:51 pmCongratulations to all. Let's

Congratulations to all. Let's get KD going again so you don't have to drive 2 hours to Mohawk. It may take awhile but it can be done.

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