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Morin On 2011 Yorkton Meet

Published: September 12, 2011 4:55 pm ET

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The 2011 standardbred race season at Cornerstone Raceway has been called a success by its host, the Yorkton Exhibition Association.

"It was good. There were lots of horses this year," said YEA Manager Shaun Morin, who added that when horse numbers are good, races have a full slate, and that adds to interest for those in the stands. Morin added that the meet "went off pretty smooth."

And, weather-wise, the 16 days of racing enjoyed a generally good summer at Cornerstone Raceway. The final day of racing went forth under sunny skies and a plus-30 temperature.

"Spring was a little rough getting some races off," said Morin, who added "once the fair hit we never seemed to have a bad day."

Morin said the crowds were generally good, and that those in attendance did have a new amenity to enjoy this year. "The tote board was a nice addition this year," he said.

There did seem to be fewer locally-sponsored races this season, but Morin said that is in large part because of the growing array of events the YEA hosts. He said that with tractor pulls, summer rodeo, and thoroughbred chuckwagon races as all part of the summer entertainment package, sponsors are targeting their support "at more specific events that fit them."

Morin said that it's not a loss of overall support, but a shifting of dollars. "The community is still unbelievably supportive of us," he said. "It's just more options to key on a specific market."

That being said, attracting more race sponsors for 2012 is something Morin said they need to work on.

"We got very busy this year with a large number of new events," he said, adding that the volume of events will be reviewed at the end of the year, and the YEA may "possibly hire more staff to help take events to the next level."

One thing that did remain strong was the volunteer base needed to host the weekly races.
Morin said it takes 30 volunteers to run the races, from those in the paddock area, to track maintenance to those barbecuing steaks.

"That's a lot of people giving up a lot of their own time to make this happen," he said, adding that he has to thank them for the efforts over 16 weeks.

The work of volunteers, the amenities, family atmosphere, and the racing combined to create a product fans like.

"If people come out once, they come back," said Morin, adding the challenge "is to try and get them out the first time."

The amount bet was off slightly in 2011, but not enough to worry Morin, who said it was about $5,000 over the whole season. He said that could be for a number of reasons, including weather, and the number of races on cards.

It's also a fact Yorkton fans are generally casual, small bettors, putting two, maybe four dollars on a race, said Morin.

"We've always tried to make it a family atmosphere," he said. "…I think we'll keep that focus."

Morin said while they don't charge to attend races, they can track support through things such as concession and bar sales, and in those areas "they held their own, or are up a bit."

As for next year, Morin said he fully expects the standardbreds back at Cornerstone Raceway. He expects the YEA will apply for 16 to 20 days of racing through Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming.

"We apply by October 31 for dates in 2012," he said, adding "as much as we'd like to get an amount of money in place early, traditionally we have to wait until (provincial) budget time."

Morin did note race purses were up a little this year, and he said that was reflected in better horses, with many races going with sub-two-minute miles over the summer, and one claiming race having six horses abreast at the finish line.

"The quality of racing is improving," he said. "… Owners don't mind investing a bit more in a horse if there's a chance of getting it back."

(A Trot Insider exclusive by Calvin Daniels)

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