BY ZACHARY CORMIER
There have been some tough times at the Alberta Downs race track lately.
“If anything I’d like to apologize to the public for the inconsistency that they’ve experienced over the last two months,” said Alberta Downs Owner and Operator Robert Allen.
Over the past two months, the track, which made its return to the horse racing circuit earlier this year, has been forced to cancel a number of race dates and switch their race days due to a variety of different factors.
The local track reopened earlier this year after taking a year’s absence in 2015 when they weren’t granted any race days by Horse Racing Alberta.
“I had a horse track for six years and they built a new track in Calgary and outright dropped me,” said Allen, adding that this season he was able to get race days but has not received any support from Horse Racing Alberta.
“This year they gave me 22 race days with no assistance of any kind, like I had to pay for everything. So I was on my own,” he said, adding that in order to cover the cost of hosting the races, he had to enter a racing pool in the United States, which meant racing fans south of the border would be able to bet on the new all thoroughbred races at Alberta Downs.
“What I was doing is we were having thoroughbred horse racing here and sending our horse racing signal to the United States. I was going into their pools,” said Allen.
“They bet millions a day, which would give us more income. But what happened under the federal rules was any Canadian couldn’t bet on our track.”
In order to solve this problem, Allen said he has had to change the time slot for the races to Tuesdays at 1:15 p.m., a major shift from the Sunday time slots the track has been running so far this season.
Allen said he also hopes that the change will boost his ability to generate revenue from the United States due to the low number of race tracks that run on that day.
“Tuesday’s a bad day but it’s a really good day in the United States because on Sunday there’s about 80 to 100 tracks running that day and in Tuesday there’s only six in the whole of North America. So I feel that it’s a good time slot for us,” he said, adding that he is still concerned about the potentially damaging effects the change could have on race day attendance at the track.
There is, however, a potential light at the end of the tunnel for the track after it was announced that the famous track at Northlands in Edmonton would be closing at the end of this year.
“I’ve made a bid on Northlands, which is closing down, and they put me on the short list so I’ve got as much chance to put a bid on Northlands as anybody and I already own a track,” he said.
The winner of the bid would receive all of the race days that are currently held at the track in Edmonton.
“The bid on that is due on August 8th and they’ll probably know two months after that who gets it.”
Until then, though, Allen said that Alberta Downs will continue to hold its remaining race days.
“I’m going to go into about 500 centres in the United States where before I was going into two. So I suspect I’m going to do good. But if I don’t, I’m going to be in trouble.”
The next race at Alberta Downs is scheduled for Aug. 2nd at 1:15 p.m.