People’s thirst for harness racing was evident this past Saturday afternoon.
While no fans were able to visit Red Shores at the Charlottetown Driving Park to watch the first qualifiers of the season due to restrictions in place because of the coronavirus (COVID-19 strain) pandemic, patrons tuned in to catch the action online.
“In terms of qualifiers, we’ve never streamed them before,” said Lee Drake, Red Shores’ marketing and brands manager. “To have 18,000 views on a Saturday afternoon is pretty impressive.”
Looking back at some of the races from June 2019, most attracted between 22,000 and 24,000 viewers while the June 6 race hit almost 31,000. By comparison, there were 142,000 viewers to watch The Guardian Gold Cup and Saucer card in August 2019.
There were nine qualifiers Saturday and the card was completed in about two hours. People were watching the stream in every Canadian province, the United States, the United Kingdom, Romania, Puerto Rico and India.
The qualifiers allow new horses to meet the standard to race in Charlottetown this year, but no betting is permitted.
Best To Hurst had the fastest time of the day, crossing the finish line in 1:57.4 in the Race 9 finale. Marc Campbell did the driving for trainer Jonah Moase and owner Neal Moase of Cornwall.
The next qualifiers are set for tonight with a 6 p.m. post time, plus Saturday and Sunday beginning at 12:30 p.m. The first races of the season go Thursday, June 4, with a 6 p.m. post time. No fans are permitted at the grounds until further notice, but the races will be broadcast live at redshores.ca.
Red Shores’ officials are excited to see what the June audience numbers will be this season.
The company’s Summerside operation remains closed but it is working with officials on a reopening plan.