Tommy Riley and Nick Boyd, two of the top young horsemen who race regularly at Kawartha Downs, are hopefull they’ll have even more opportunity to do so next season as the track has applied for 40 race dates in 2018, up from 18 race programs conducted during the 2017 meet which concluded on September 30. 

The deadline is today for patrons and horse people to provide feedback on the track’s race date submission and the horse people are cautiously optimistic that the province’s governing authorities will green light the additional race dates. Click here for more information or to send feedback.

“If Kawartha does not receive the 40 race dates they’ve applied for, it will send a strong signal to the industry that the success of Kawartha Downs over the past few years is not being recognized or rewarded and I don’t think that’s right,” said Riley a third generation horse trainer who lives 25 minutes away from the Fraserville oval.

“It takes two and a half hours, one way, for me to ship to Flamboro which is the closest track for me when Kawartha isn’t racing. No one wants to truck that far, especially in the winter. With the proposed 40 date schedule folks would have the chance to get their horses rested and ready for the next season. We’d have 12 weeks off versus the 34 we currently have,” he noted.

Riley and his wife Amanda and their two young sons all notice the difference between racing at Kawartha and other tracks. “When you’re warming up your horses at Kawartha and look into the grandstand you don’t see ashphalt, you see people, it’s always packed. My boys love the Kids’ Club they have every race night, I don’t think any other track has that.

“When people come to race here from other tracks they’re always impressed by the crowds we have and can’t believe it when we say that it’s like that every race night. Yet, despite the success we’ve had we’re still racing for the lowest purses in the province.”

Boyd concurs. “Given the lower purse structure and the short meet with 18 races, it doesn’t make sense for people to invest in a horse to race at Kawartha. There are numerous reasons why your horse can’t race all 18 of those races, sickness, injury, whatever. However, with a 40 date season trainers and owners will treat it more as a business than a hobby,” he reasoned. 

“They want us to make it a business, there needs to be opportunities to do so. The current structure limits anyone from making any kind of business plan in terms of racing horses,” noted Boyd who has been among the track’s top drivers for the past several years.

“Racing 40 days in 2018 would make Kawartha Downs’ viable,” explained track general manager Orazio Valente. “Kawartha is in a unique situation. We are one of, if not the most successful B track in the province. However, we’re also the first Standardbred track to be losing our casino and the revenue that comes from that.” Shorelines, which operates the slots at the racetrack currently, plan to move the operation into Peterborough next year.

The track has applied to race every Saturday night from March 1 to December 1 with a 7 p.m. post time.

Nick Boyd & Tommy Riley following a win with Royal Engagement this year at Kawartha Downs.