Down The Backstretch: Summer season to see increase in purses

Nicholas Oakes
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This summer will see some slight increases in purses at Island racetracks due in part to the P.E.I. 2014 celebrations.

The increases will include moving up the purses for major aged events, as well as a 10 per cent spike in all overnight purses during Old Home Week and Lobster Carnival Week. The Gold Cup and Saucer final in Charlottetown will carry a purse of $75,000 in 2014, up from $60,000 in previous years, while Summerside’s signature event, the Governor’s Plate, will carry a $25,000 purse, up from $20,000, as well as increases to the aged mares series held during each track’s signature week.

Tom Clark, vice-president of the P.E.I. Harness Racing Industry Assocation, says the resources to do this in 2014 came partly through the P.E.I. 2014 fund, while the rest came from association revenues and efficient budgeting. Clark says once the funds became available for the 2014 season, industry stakeholders began looking at the best way to implement the funds with the summer tourism season in mind.

“Our next step in our process was to map a route as to how we can distribute these funds in the most effective manner and to the broadest bandwidth of local participants, all the while staying focused on maximum revenue returns on investment,” Clark said. “It became clear early that our goals would be best achieved by focusing on our premier portions of our race calendar in both facilities.”

Clark said the increase of overnight purses during Lobster Carnival Week and Old Home Week will help the quality of the product being placed on the racetrack that week.

“By increasing purse levels, we hope that we can help our tremendous race office put together race cards, for our patrons and wagering public, that will make for the highest level of product and talent that we can produce,” he said. “Full fields of quality talent are aspects of those big weeks that require large resources of horse inventory, and we wish to try work with the race office to try and make their job more manageable. That will create a level of product interest for players and fans to that will eventually lead to revenue creation through wagering, facilities use, gaming and dining.”

Also new to the 2014 season is the $25,000 Founder’s Cup, an invitational race set for Tuesday, Aug. 26, the night of the National Driving Championship in Charlottetown. This race, 10 days after the Gold Cup and Saucer, could see some top quality horses stick around for a chance at another substantial purse. Clark said another contributing factor to adding this race to the calendar was the meeting of Canadian Premiers in Charlottetown at that same time. All Canadian Premiers will be invited to Red Shores at the  Charlottetown Driving Park that night to take in the driving championship of top drivers from across the country, as well as the top quality field of aged pacers.

“This was identified as a potentially premium time period to try and take advantage of the best revenue opportunities,” Clark said. “To exploit these events through a signature high end race program will hopefully return revenue benefits for island racing.”

He also points to the industry’s proven results in creating economic spin-off from the strong government support it receives.

“At the end of the day, we also will see more money placed in the pockets of the people who put the product on the track, be that owners or trainers and drivers. These increased purse monies will eventually create a churn effect within our industry.”

Saturday at CDP

One of the finest cards of the 2014 season will go to the track Saturday night at Red Shore at the Charlottetown Driving Park with eliminations of the Maritime Breeder’s Stake for three-year-old colts and fillies as well as eliminations of the Cecil Ladner Memorial Pacing series.

The first three-year-old filly division in race 6 will see a clash between divisional leader Elm Grove Inarush (Mark Bradley) and newly minted Truro track record holder Lovineveryminute (Todd Trites), while 2013 champion Saulsbrook Alana (Marc Campbell) headlines the other elimination in race 9. The three-year-old colts eliminations go to the gate in Races 8 and 11 with no true standouts in the division, with the exception of Cape Breton’s Dumas Walker (Myles Heffernan).

The Cecil Ladner eliminations are in Races 10 and 12 with the top pacer in Maine harness racing, Art Of Illusion, in the second division fresh off a 1:53.2 victory at Scarborough Downs. The top four in all eliminations will advance to next Saturday’s rich finals.

P.E.I. scene

My condolences to the family of the late John Eldon Green of Charlottetown.

Green, 86, was a longtime horse owner with horses like tough claimer Fold Over and former Atlantic Sires Stakes champion Miss Lori. Most of his horses were owned in partnership with John Irvine of New Brunswick and the late horseman Albert Bernard, who trained and drove them.

A former deputy minister of health, Green authored reports for the Provincial Government that showed the need to further develop racing with his company Smith-Green Consulting. Those reports led to the formation of the P.E.I. Harness Racing Industry Assocation, as well as contributed to the partnership between Island racing and the Atlantic Lottery Corporation. Green was also a longtime director of the P.E.I. Colt Stakes.

My wishes for a swift recovery to Carl Harper, who suffered some health problems earlier this week.

Harper is a partner in the Turn For Home Stable, which will send Charlottes Style postward in an elimination of the Maritime Breeder’s stake Saturday night in Charlottetown.

Nick's Picks

Saturday at Red Shores at the Charlottetown Driving Park (post time

6 p.m.):

Race 1 – Come Back

Race 2 – Hollywoodgigolo

Race 3 – Mappos Moenhay

Race 4 – Mcjestic

Race 5 – Cabo Pan Lucas

Race 6 – Elm Grove Inarush

Race 7 – Say It Again Sam

Race 8 – Dumas Walker

Race 9 – Saulsbrook Alana

Race 10 – Machinthesand

Race 11 – Settlement Request

Race 12 – Astor

Race 13 - Capitalism

Nicholas Oakes’ column appears

in The Guardian each Frdiay. He can be

reached at

Organizations: P.E.I. Harness Racing Industry Assocation, Smith-Green Consulting, Atlantic Lottery Corporation

Geographic location: Charlottetown, Summerside, Charlottetown Driving Park Red Shores Cape Breton Maine New Brunswick

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Recent comments

  • harnessfan
    June 13, 2014 - 08:38

    Great news and stories every week nick keep it up. It is great to hear the increase in purse money this year but the only thing I see wrong with that is that it is only going to be for one year? I say if red shores/alc and the sponsors are getting funding from the govn't for this year then get together find way to keep these highly regarded races at the purse money that they are going to be at for this year.If your sponsor(s) do not want to increase to the purse then go out and find a new or a couple of new sponsors....the saying is "out with old, in with the new". Also with that increase with the purse money I would like to see these horses that come in for just one week from out of the maritimes like for the GC&S that there is a stipulation that they have to race at one of the maritime tracks before the trials for that event. In my opinion this will showcase these horse before the big event and draw more people out to tracks through the atlantic region. I do not think it is all that fair if a horse races through out the maritimes all season only to be good enough to get into the be dance to finish out of the money. Yes I can always say that I had a horse in the GC&S. But would I be lucky enough to win it,chances are slim.