TORONTO, January 6 - The Standardbred Alliance today announced that overall wagering and average per-race handle on Standardbred racing showed strong growth in 2014.
Since April 1, the date of the launch of the "Alliance," all-sources wagering on Standardbred Alliance racing is $288,862,555, an encouraging 16.76 per cent rise over the $247,404,815 bet through the equivalent period in 2013.
The numbers are promising on a per-race basis as well. Last year, an average of $60,006 was bet per race. After April 1, in 2014, an average of $65,540 per race was recorded, also a strong 9.22 per cent increase.
The Standardbred Alliance, led by Woodbine Entertainment Group (WEG), is a consortium of eight Ontario racetracks. The members represent a three-tier racing hierarchy, 'Grass Roots' (Clinton, Hanover), 'Signature' (Flamboro, Georgian, Grand River and Western Fair) and 'Premier' (Mohawk and Woodbine).
The Alliance was created to deliver standardbred racing and wagering opportunities with a focus on ease-of-access to existing customers, consistent racing opportunities and purses for its participants, efficient track operations and coordinated efforts to bring new customers to Ontario standardbred racing.
Among the biggest performers of the new provincial model is Western Fair. The London track, in the midst of a terrific season featuring strong handles, including a one-card record mark of $697,268 on December 23, saw a wagering spike of 8.22 per cent overall during their fall-winter meet. Per-race handle is up a stunning 22.77 per cent.
"We're quite pleased with these numbers," said Hugh Mitchell, Western Fair's Chief Executive Officer. "It has been a result of many things coming together for us this year, including better weather so far. With our Standardbred Alliance's coordinated race date calendar and broader signal distribution, racing fans are discovering Western Fair and responding well to the product."
Western Fair will continue to offer racing four days a week through the winter on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday.
Flamboro Downs, in Dundas, is the other Signature Standardbred Alliance track currently live, with racing three nights weekly on Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. Flamboro has also seen some dramatic increases by almost doubling their total wagering, adding $5.7 million through additional race dates, since the start of their meet in the fall.
Flamboro will host the return of the Confederation Cup, one of Canadian harness racing's signature events, in 2015 after a two-year hiatus. Confederation Cup XXXVII will be for four-year-old pacers and will take place on Sunday, May 17 (Victoria Day weekend).
During the Alliance period (after April 1), WEG tracks handled $253,460,212, 16.56 per cent over the $217,453,779 recorded over the same period last year.
WEG's per-race handle also showed an increase, a 4.49 per cent rise since April 1. An average mark of $132,266 from 1,912 races was recorded in the 2014 Alliance period, while $126,869 was bet per dash from 1,714 races contested during the final nine months of 2013.
"Woodbine Entertainment Group harness racing is seeing growth under the new Standardbred Alliance model," said Jamie Martin, WEG's Executive Vice-President of Racing. "It's shown in the handle figures that racing's customers are respecting the top level competition we offer at both Mohawk and Woodbine. We look forward to an excellent 2015, which includes the Breeders Crown, the sport's championship event, at Woodbine in October."
WEG kicked off its 2015 221-date campaign this past Saturday evening and will offer four nights of racing all winter on Monday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
by John Siscos, for WEG