Downs covets more racing dates

SCOTT UNGER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:30 AM ET

During its almost 50 years of existence, Assiniboia Downs has seen its racing season run from just after the snow melted to brushing up against the cold wet stuff deep into autumn, making the racing days each summer well over 100.

With an aging facility and fewer resources at their disposal, the racing season has been scaled back to just 70 days over the course of the summer, which amounts to every weekend from May to September, three Holiday Mondays and Tuesdays in July. It will stay the same for next season.

"Our calendar is set for 2008," Assiniboia Downs director of operations Darren Dunn said yesterday.

The season will begin May 2 next year and will finish up on September 21.

"We've just signed a one-year contract with the horsemen," Dunn added.

"While we are still in the midst of 2007, we start planning and trying to structure 2008 right after the Manitoba Derby. We've been able to bring that to a successful conclusion with the horsemen, who have been very supportive."

If more dates were to be added, it would mean the purses would shrink, along with the fields for each race.

"We couldn't afford more race dates at this point," Dunn said.

When the provincially-issued feasibility study of the Downs is completed over the winter, it may open a door for more racing dates to be added in the coming season, so long as it generates more revenue for the facility.

"It's certainly a possibility," said Dunn.

From a trainer's stand point, more dates mean the possibility of earning more money, but it has to make sense for the industry as a whole.

"I remember racing until Nov. 11. It was a little cold then," trainer Blair Miller said. "For the betterment of the industry and everybody involved, if we ran till Halloween, everyone would have an opportunity to make more money.

"Right now it's not economically feasible for the race track to run those days because they just can't afford to pay the purses, but hopefully one day soon we'll be able to do that again."


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