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Industry Day Exceeds Expectations

Published: August 11, 2019 12:50 pm ET

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While handle on Canadian harness racing is trending in a positive direction, the recent handle figure from 2019 Industry Day at Grand River Raceway was far above what anyone would have imagined.

The record handle of $488,696 posted last Monday (Aug. 5) at Grand River bested the 2016 total of $481,239 by 1.5 per cent and smashed the 2018 total of $363,719 by 34 per cent. It's the best handle in the track's history.

"We were hoping to do better, but not expecting that much of an increase," Jamie Martin, the director of operations at Grand River Raceway, told Trot Insider. "It has been about the same for the last couple of years."

Noting a roughly 10 per cent increase in nightly handle over last year, Martin was optimistic for a strong Industry Day this season. He cites a few factors — some circumstantial, some not — that were likely contributors to the monumental increase.

"We had a double Hi-5 carryover that added about $45,000 in direct wagering for the card, and probably helped other pools as well," indicated Martin. "If we don't have a winner for the Hi-5 pool, it carries to the next pool. We did not have a winning combination in the last race Friday night, so $3,800 carried over to race six on Monday. Then we did not have a winner in that race, so $15,000 carried to the last race Monday. But even with out that, our increase for the day would have exceeded our average increase this year."

Martin also points to the improved media offerings which have enabled Grand River to expand its reach, particularly south of the 49th parallel.

"I would say most Ontario tracks are up in all-source wagering with U.S. market growth," continued Martin. "All non-Woodbine tracks made dramatic improvements to video, which would be hard to quantify but must help."

In addition to the free video stream available for all Grand River race programs, the Facebook Live stream of the track's signature events — the Battle of Waterloo and the Battle of the Belles — made the day's festivities all the more accessible to fans across North America.

"The video stream is always free, but adding the Facebook broadcast this year may have helped as well," added Martin. "The quality was very good; Curtis (MacDonald) and his team did a great job."

If the Industry Day gains are any proof, things look bright for harness racing's renaissance in Ontario — both in Elora and beyond.

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