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Rideau Returns With Major News

Published: February 7, 2020 2:39 pm ET

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As live harness racing returns to the nation's capital this weekend, officials with Rideau Carleton Raceway have announced the return of a major event to the 2020 schedule.

A premier event for aged pacers, the Des Smith Classic was contested at Rideau Carleton from 1982-2012 producing classic champions such as Coal Harbor, Apaches Fame, Artsplace, Staying Together, Riyadh, Lis Mara and most recently Betterthancheddar. This year, the event will be resurrected and contested on Sunday, August 16 for an estimated purse of $75,000.

“To have our signature event return is very exciting,” remarked racing manager Peter Andrusek. “An event of this magnitude drawing some of the best aged pacing talent in North America and some of racing’s best trainers and drivers will certainly bolster the notoriety and credibility of our racing program. We are very proud of our 58-year history as a cornerstone track in Ontario and we will continue to enhance the on and off track experience for our valued racing fans.”

The 59th season kicks off Sunday, February 9 with a 6:30 post time. When Thursday programs are added in June, post time for that day will be 4:00 p.m. for the first time. This is an attempt to find the sweet spot where maximum pari-mutuel wager can be attained.

"It's a different start time than we've seen," said John MacMillan of the National Capital Region Harness Horse Association. "Fans are maybe going to get a chance to stop in on their way home from work...a lot of people get off work a little bit earlier in the summertime, so you're going to start earlier and you're going to get home earlier."

Rideau will also pilot a hitching fee experiment where owners of horses not finishing in the top five will be sent home with $150.

Fans may also notice a new state-of-the-art toteboard in the infield and horses and drivers will assemble behind a brand new starting car capable of accommodating multiple guests.

The NCRHHA and Rideau Carleton couldn’t be more pleased and proud to welcome a very special guest driver on Sunday, May 17 to assist in their annual fundraiser for The Shepherds of Good Hope. The world’s all-time leading dash winning driver, Dave Palone will be honoured for his illustrious career by the Rideau Carleton faithful. Boasting more than 19,000 wins and $145 million in career earnings, Palone will have a meet and greet with fans and his superior driving skills will also be on display as he competes in eight races on the card.

One driver that will not be on-hand for the 2020 season opener at Rideau Carleton is perennial kingpin Guy Gagnon. The 2019 training and driving champion is presently managing a stable in southwestern Ontario and thus not in the Ottawa area.

"I've never seen dominance from start to finish like we saw from the Guy Gagnon barn," said MacMillan of Gagnon's 2019 campaign. "His own barn had a 0.424 average, he was great with his new acquisitions, he campaigned horses all season long in every class, and his success was essentially unmatched in the 32 years that I've been following Rideau Carleton racing."

Who do MacMillan and racing analyst Graeme Mitchell feel could best take advantage of Gagnon's absence? Check out the video below.

To view the entries for Sunday's card of harness racing at Rideau Carleton Raceway, click the following link: Sunday Entries - Rideau Carleton.

(with files from NCRHHA)

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