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An industry older than Confederation, one that looms especially large in Southwestern Ontario, is shut out of behind-doors deal-making that could spell its demise. Harness racing in North America dates back to 1788 and was thought as recently as five years ago to support up to 60,000 jobs in Ontario. But five years after Ontario slashed funding from slots revenue to the industry by more than half, those who depend on horse racing in the London region — breeders, trainers, drivers and many who supply the business — fear the death knell may be approaching. “You got to feel kind of helpless,” said Mark Horner, who owns a stable in St. Marys and is a director of Standardbred Canada and the Central Ontario Standardbred Association. Big change is coming to the Western Fair District after the province’s gambling arm, the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp., (OLG), licensed away gaming in much of Southwestern Ontario in private bidding won by Vancouver-based Gateway Casinos & Entertainment. That winning bid has led to a complex set of negotiations, with Gateway demanding more favourable terms than what OLG paid to use the slots building at the fairgrounds in London, home to the region’s largest racing operation. Gateway is in the business of casinos, not horse racing, so when its spokesperson threatened to moved the casino from the fairgrounds if the company can’t secure a good deal, that sent shock waves through the local horse racing industry that’s been on shaky grounds since 2013. “It put a knot in your stomach,” Horner told The Free Press. In horse racing, it’s the greyhound-like thoroughbreds that draw the biggest spotlight, from the rolling hills of Kentucky to the racetrack at Woodbine. But while thoroughbreds are a high-stakes game and the domain of the wealthy, sturdier standardbreds — the horses used in harness racing, where they pull a two-wheeled cart called a sulky — are the lifeblood of Ontario racing because they can race four times as often and deliver more predictable returns, Horner said. Western Fair offers the second-biggest racing purses in Ontario, he said, and if that’s lost or even diminished, the entire industry in the province may be trotting towards extinction. Hugh Mitchell, the chief executive at the Western Fair District, knows the stakes. “Without the lease payments we can not support live racing,” Mitchell said. “We’re working with the government and Gateway to find a solution.” Negotiations are tough because they involve agreements between four different entities: Gateway, OLG, Western Fair and the city of London, which co-owns most of the fairgrounds. “I’ve never seen something so complex — not in my lifetime, and I’m 63. . . There’s a lot of heaving lifting left,” Mitchell said. “It really has (created) apprehension . . . This is thousands of jobs . . . The horse people are anxious. Most have spent their lives in this business (and) they’re not at the (negotiating) table.” Horner is confident Mitchell does want to save horse racing – but he doesn’t know if the Western Fair has the leverage to get what it wants and Horner doesn’t see an ally in OLG, calling talks with the government agency an “uphill battle.” As for Gateway, it has no interest in subsidizing horse racing. And while it hopes an expanded casino can partner with the racetrack, it’s the former that is the company’s focus. “They are two separate entities,” Gateway spokesperson Rob Mitchell said. “We bid on a casino. (It) has nothing to do with horse racing.” Gateway wants a larger casino that would also host table games and its signature restaurants, and possible a hotel as well — plans that require a far bigger piece of real estate than what’s now home to the building housing slot machines at Western Fair District. Gateway has asked the city and Western Fair to sell it land they jointly own or to reduce the $6 million a year OLG pays to lease the casino building, a deal that expires in 2020. The company’s bargaining pitch is simple: If you want 700 new jobs and more than $140 million in investment, sell us the land or give us a better deal. So while Fairgrounds CEO Hugh Mitchell never imagined a hotel at the fairgrounds, he concedes that’s what Gateway wants, and if a deal is to be made to save horse racing, there may need to be new streams of revenue. “We’re looking for complimentary uses that benefit all four parties,” Hugh Mitchell said. “Horse racing is in our DNA.” Whether a hotel fits in city plans remains to be seen, however. Possible opponents include those who represent existing hotels. “I know none of the hoteliers are happy about it, the early rumblings,” said Luca Monti, sales manager at Holiday Inn Hotel and Suites London and a board member of the Ontario Restaurant, Hotel and Motel Association’s London branch. “We welcome the tourists coming to the city, for sure, but if that’s going to be a one-stop destination, and have everything covered in that complex there, it’s worrisome to all of us.” “We don’t think it will put us out of business, by any means. But it’ll hurt numbers.” His concerns resonate with Coun. Phil Squire, who’s skeptical a new hotel and expanded casino will breathe more life into the Old East Village. “I don’t think people should get too excited about the economic development in the area around it, because normally a casino creates a little area around it where you don’t get as much development, because everything is self-contained. “The gambling, the restaurant, the accommodation is all in the casino structure,” Squire said. The ward councillor, Jesse Helmer, shares that view. “Casinos are not like other kinds of business. Generally speaking, they face inward. The goal is to keep people in there as long as possible, and provide everything they need in the facility, so it can tend to be a bit of an island,” he said. Even residents in the Old East Village have mixed views of an expanded casino, said Helmer, citing “a mix of cautiously optimistic and just cautious.” Helmer himself sees potential pitfalls and benefits to an expanded casino. “The social impacts that come with gambling, especially problem gambling, are really significant,” and it’s easy to “underrate” the negatives, he said. “(But) if (Gateway) relocates the casino out of the community, there might be an impact of millions of dollars on the city budget, and we’d have to make changes in the budget to accommodate that. We’d have to raise taxes or cut some services or push things off in the future. People need to understand those trade-offs,” Helmer said. “The licence is for a big geographic area. Conceivably, Gateway could operate in a different location. That’s something else we have to keep in mind.” Gateway has said it prefers the Western Fair site but will look elsewhere in London if a favourable deal can’t be struck. Once Gateway completes a deal with London, it will turning to gaming operations and horse racing elsewhere in the region, including Clinton and Dresden, said Ian Fleming, manager of the Clinton Raceway. “People are obviously nervous, Fleming said. “There have been a lot of changes the past four or five years.” By Jonathan Sher, Megan Stacey, The London Free Press Reprinted with permission of The London Free Press   PLAYERS AT THE TABLE City of London Now getting about $4.5 million a year from OLG, based on a percentage of slot revenue. Received $597,500 in rent in 2017 from Western Fair District. An expanded casino and hotel would bring construction jobs and long-term employment but also create competition for existing hotels and other entertainment venues.   Western Fair District Getting $6 million a year from OLG for use of the slots building, according to Gateway. With its agricultural roots, wants to keep horse racing viable. Most of its lands are co-owned by the city.   Gateway Entertainment and Casinos Won licensing bids to run government gambling enterprises in southwestern and northern Ontario. Wants a much bigger London casino that includes table games, signature restaurants and possibly a hotel.   Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. Wants to modernize — squeeze more cash — out of gambling operations in Ontario by handing the keys to private operators that win bids. Giving about $160 million a year in benefits to the horse racing industry through the Horse Racing Partnership Funding Program and tax relief for horse-race wagering.   NOT AT THE TABLE (BUT WITH STAKES IN THE OUTCOME) Horse racing industry Saw its share of slot money slashed in 2013 from $345 million a year to about $90 million plus tax reductions Before the change in funding, about 60,000 jobs were directly or indirectly related to horse racing; about half those jobs were lost   London hotel industry Doesn’t want to lose customers to a hotel built on city-owned land   Old East Village Redevelopment there might get an assist from an expanded casino and hotel.   THE EXISTING DEALS: OLG and Western Fair District: Facility lease through 2020 that pays the fair $6 million a year, according to Gateway OLG and city of London: City gets about $4.5 million a year from a deal signed in 2013 that lasts until there are no longer games there or the licensing permit is no longer available. City and Western Fair District: Lease payments that resulted in $597,500 in 2017; the fair is exempt from property taxes, since most of its land is co-owned by the city. Any new or expanded building need the written approval of the city as well as the required permits. City also co-owns the existing grandstand slots building and half of the parking lots in front of the grandstand where the casino might be extended. OLG and Gateway: Gateway won bid for southwestern gaming services that include a casino in Point Edward and slots in London, Woodstock, Clinton, Dresden and Hanover, the last three of which have raceways.   HORSE RACING HISTORY 1788: An English thoroughbred stallion named Messenger is shipped to America through whom all Standardbreds, a more durable but less speedy breed, trace their ancestry.   1849: A great grandson of Messenger and the first standardbred, Hambletonian 10, is born in a rural hamlet about an hour north of New York City. He would go on to produce more than 1,300 foals by 1875 and make rich an illiterate stable hand named Rysdyk. 1879: The National Association of Trotting Horse Breeders agreed upon standards that require a stallion to trot a mile in two minutes and thirty seconds or better, or 2:35 if hitched to a wagon. The new name of the breed is called a standardbred and is best known for harness racing. * Source: Standardbred Canada

London, October 20, 2017 -- Saulsbrook Peach captured harness racing's inaugural Veterans Classic Pace - part of the first ever Veterans' Classic night held on Friday at The Raceway at Western Fair District. The London oval was playing host to the first-time event which honoured Military Veterans, past and present, in a unique way during the night's 10-race harness racing program. The evening began prior to the race program with opening ceremonies performed by 1st Hussars Military Troop, followed by the official unveiling of the Raceway's new 'Veterans Inspired' winner's circle. Fans also had a chance to meet several veterans and check out the various military vehicles and displays that were on hand throughout the facility. Video tributes were shown between races as well. The inaugural Veterans Classic Pace went in race 7 and it was the Isabelle Darveau trainee Saulsbrook Peach who went wire-to-wire in 1:56. The eight-year-old notched his 23rd career win for driver Robert Shepherd and owner Catheline Pelletier. Live racing resumes at The Raceway this Monday night with a first post of 6:15 p.m. Greg Blanchard      

London, October 10, 2017 - There was some confusion surrounding the harness racing payout of Tuesday night's 6th race Super Hi-5 wager at The Raceway at Western Fair District. The Super Hi-5 finish order was 2-3-8-4-6 but was made official with the fifth place finisher inadvertently left off the running order and the payout was posted on combination of 2-3-8-4-All. However, when the winning Super Hi-5 combination at The Raceway is not sold it should result in a 100 per cent carryover of the net pool, thus causing confusion among patrons. Tote officials were able to reprice the race and the corrected payout on the winning combination - which was 2-3-8-4-6 - was $456.66 for a .20 cent ticket. Most of the winning tickets were sold online through HPIbet.com and officials were able to make the correction to those accounts. There was in fact a carryover on the night's late Super Hi-5 of just over $6,800 which will go into the early Super Hi-5 pool this Friday night. Greg Blanchard

OCTOBER 3, 2017 - London area harness racing fans got a look at Ontario's talented two-year-old pacing colts and geldings on Tuesday evening as the novices wrapped up their Ontario Sire Stakes Gold Series season at The Raceway at Western Fair District. With a berth in the Oct. 14 Super Final at stake, driver Doug McNair and Bo Mach set the tenor for evening in the first $64,800 division, firing away from Post 1 and stacking Jimmy Freight and Burning Midnight up to their right through the opening turn. Bo Mach reached the quarter pole in :27.4, but that was the last fraction he would clock without company. By the :57.1 half Burning Midnight was sitting on his flank and that colt continued to press the pace through the 1:25.4 three-quarters. After a fierce stretch battle it was Burning Midnight with a neck in front of Bo Mach in 1:55.1. Unable to find a way up the inside, frustrated fan favourite Jimmy Freight settled for third, one and one-half length behind the leaders. Louis-Philippe Roy drove Burning Midnight to his first Gold Series win for trainer Corey Giles and owners Brad Gray of Dundas and Denise Guerriero of Toronto, ON. The Mach Three son also captured a Grassroots trophy in his Ontario Sires Stakes debut at Mohawk Racetrack on July 20. The victory boosted Burning Midnight into the top ten point earners and landed him a berth in the $225,000 Super Final. The second division saw St Lads Neptune leave smartly from Post 1 and claim an early lead before ceding to Levis Day before the :28.2 quarter. Yacht Seelster led the charge up the outer lane as Levis Day led the field to a :58 half and 1:26.3 three-quarters, but it was fan favourite St Lads Neptune who slipped out of the pocket and on to a two length victory in 1:55.3 Levis Day stayed game for second and Sharp Action Money closed well for third. "He totally jogged tonight," said driver Jody Jamieson of St Lads Neptune. "He got the best trip possible on a half mile track though, and that really helps." Jamieson drives the Mach Three son for his father, trainer Carl Jamieson of Rockwood, and Thomas Kyron of Toronto, ON. In seven lifetime starts the gelding has tallied five wins, including Grassroots victories at Clinton Raceway on Aug. 27 and Mohawk Racetrack on Sept. 4. St Lads Neptune finished third in his Metro Pace elimination at Mohawk on Sept. 16, but came up a bit sick for the Sept. 23 final and finished ninth. "He had a high white blood cell count after the Metro, so that was real disappointing, because I thought he'd go with them," said Jamieson. "Hopefully he stays healthy enough to race them again at the end of the month." Before he heads south for the Oct. 21 Breeders Crown eliminations at Indiana's Hoosier Park, St Lads Neptune will compete in the Oct. 14 Super Final after squeaking into ninth spot in the point standings with Tuesday's win. The winner of the third division will also compete in the Super Final, and trainer Casie Coleman is hoping Western Passage is poised for a strong finish to the season after a mid-summer hiccup caused him to miss six weeks of racing action. "After his second in the second Gold (July 20), I really though he cheated on me and needed to be gelded," said Coleman. "So I gelded him and we lost a lot of time, as he got a lot of complications after and went in for a second surgery. "He's coming around now again, hopefully in time for the Super Finals," added the Cambridge, ON resident. "He's a really nice colt." Starting from Post 4 with driver Doug McNair in the race bike, Western Passage was sitting third when favourite Simple Kinda Man reached the quarter in :29.3, but he did not sit there long as McNair quickly sent the colt after the leader. Although Western Passage had a nose in front at the :58 half Simple Kinda Man did not give way without a fight, and the colts were by the 1:25.4 three-quarters before Western Passage finally took control and powered away from the field to an eight length victory in 1:55.4. Declan Seelster finished second and Hudson Phil closed hard for third. Coleman shares ownership of Western Passage with her partners in the West Wins Stable of Cambridge, along with John and McKinlay Fielding of Toronto and Calhoun Racing Ltd. of Chatham, ON. With one win, two seconds and one seventh in Gold Series action the Sportswriter son finished the regular season in third spot in the standings with 102 points. The top 10 point earners will compete for $225,000 and divisional honours in their Oct. 14 Super Final at Mohawk Racetrack, part of the Ontario Sires Stakes' $1.8 million season finale. OSS Program Information For rules, notices, Program changes, up-to-date point standings, race replays, and more, visit: www.ontariosiresstakes.com Ontario Racing

London, September 22, 2017 -- The Raceway at Western Fair District will usher in another exciting season of live harness racing beginning on Monday, October 2nd. The weekly Fall schedule features racing every Monday and Tuesday at 6:15 p.m. and Friday nights at 7:05 p.m. The final leg of the Ontario Sires Stakes Gold divisions for two-year-old colt pacers will take place on Tuesday, October 3rd and that will just be the start of a busy month at the London oval. Grand opening festivities will happen on Friday, October 6th and will be held in conjunction with the 250th Anniversary of horse racing in Canada. Some of the special events planned include $1 programs, an 8-foot commemorative cake, 'Wanna Drive' team on hand, seminar for potential new horse owners, a Bouncy Pony media celebrity race and prize giveaways including an opportunity to win a $250 cash prize. "We are looking forward to the return of live racing and have a busy month of October planned to kick it off," said Director of Racing Greg Blanchard. "There are some changes and some new events that we are excited about and that we hope will enhance our racing product and on-track experience throughout the season." A brand new event this year is the Veteran's Classic on Friday, October 20th. The event will celebrate military veterans, young and old, in a unique setting as part of the live racing program. The night will kick off with a performance from the 1st Hussars Cavalry Troop and there will also be a showcase of military vehicles throughout the facility, veterans' tributes between races and the Veteran's Classic Pace as the on-track feature. The Raceway will use the occasion to officially unveil its new winner's circle which will also honour military veterans both past and present. Other major events during the month of October include the Forest City Preview on Friday, October 13, in conjunction with the new London Selected Yearling Sale that same weekend, and the 12thannual Harness The Hope night on Friday, October 27. Track management had considered implementation of a passing lane this season and received tremendous response to an online poll asking customers their opinion on the initiative. The overall response was slightly in favour of the move, however management has opted not to make a change for this season and will revisit it for 2018. Customers will notice a change to the Monday Pub Night menu with the addition of some new menu options to go along with the regular favourites - details to come. Customers are invited to come out to the Top Of The Fair every Monday to enjoy great food, live racing, watch their favourite game and have an opportunity at prize giveaways. Reservations are not required. The betting menu will also get a tweak as the early pick-3 each day will now be guaranteed at $2,500. The early Pick-3 has grown into one of the more popular wagers on the daily menu which also includes a pair of $5,000 guaranteed Pick-4 pools and a pair of Super Hi-5 wagers - all are 15% takeout wagers. The Super Hi-5 races were contested at 1-1/16 miles during the final month of last season as a trial and The Raceway team was encouraged by the results. "I think the experiment hit the mark in all the areas we were hoping it would," explained Blanchard. "The longer run to the first turn gave outside horses a better chance to get early position and gave drivers more time to get their horses set for the first turn which is a positive. The longer distance gave each starter an increased chance to overcome a slow start and betting was higher than anticipated on those races. It is something we feel worked very well and that we plan to continue for this season." The added distance races feature nine-horse fields with 10 per cent added to the purse and money paid out to the top six finishers rather than the standard top five. For more details on the upcoming meet visit www.westernfairdistrict.com. To make reservations for Grand Opening night at the Top Of The Fair, email topofthefair@westernfairdistrict.com or call 519-438-7203 (ext. 252). From WFD Media

MAY 26, 2017 - Happy Trio lived up to his name in Friday's sixth race at The Raceway at Western Fair District. The harness racing three-year-old pacing colt put broad smiles on the faces of his three owners as he cruised to an impressive victory in the second of two Ontario Sire Stakes $95,600 Gold Series divisions. "I'm pumped, I'm so proud of him. That's a hell of a mile," said trainer Tony O'Sullivan after Happy Trio halted the teletimer at 1:53, just one-fifth of a second shy of the track record for sophomore pacing colts. Starting from Post 1, driver Doug McNair of Guelph, ON sent Happy Trio directly to the front and the pair never faced a challenge as they rang up fractions of :27.2, :56.3 and 1:24.4 en route to the 1:53 score. Fireball followed the pacesetter throughout the mile and finished two and one-quarter lengths back in second, while fan favourite Streakavana finished five lengths back in third. "All I said to Dougie was, you know, you can let him pace out of there and after that it's up to you. He's really, really quick," said O'Sullivan. "And at the half I was pretty confident because Dougie really had a good hold of him and that's what that horse likes. He likes to feel brave, and Dougie is pretty good at making one feel brave." Cambridge resident O'Sullivan shares ownership of Happy Trio with Lorne Keller of Exeter and Domenic Chiaravalle of Hamilton, ON. The win was the Mach Three son's first of the season through two outings and his second lifetime. As a two-year-old, Happy Trio was a Gold Series winner at Mohawk Racetrack and banked $157,145 in nine starts. "I'm so proud of him, because it was the toughest division by far, on paper, and there are horses in here that have paced faster and done better," said O'Sullivan. "But he was a good horse last year. He made good money and he never, I think he raced bad once, other than that he was always right there." Happy Trio will have an opportunity to earn another piece of Ontario Sires Stakes hardware when the three-year-old pacing colts make their second Gold Series start at Mohawk Racetrack on July 1. The other $95,600 Gold division on The Raceway's action-packed Molson Pace program went to fan favourite Walter Mitty, who overcame early interference to score a 1:56.3 victory. Happy Trio's stablemate in the O'Sullivan barn, Calvin K, finished one and three-quarter lengths back in second and Dreamfair B J was third for owner-breeder John Lamers of Ingersoll. Louis-Philippe Roy piloted Walter Mitty to victory in his Ontario Sires Stakes debut for trainer Richard Moreau and owners Synerco Ventures Inc. of Toronto, ON. The win boosted the Mach Three gelding's lifetime record to two wins, two seconds and two thirds in six starts for earnings of $65,560. In the evening's grand finale, the $150,000 Molson Pace, fan favourite Bit Of A Legend N took control early and never looked back, cruising home a one and three-quarter length winner over last year's Molson Pace champion Evenin Of Pleasure. Sunfire Blue Chip finished third. Jordan Stratton engineered the win for trainer Peter Tritton and owner Harry Von Knoblauch Stable of San Diego, CA. The victory boosted the New Zealand bred pacer's earnings to $1.6 million. For rules, notices, Program changes, up-to-date point standings, race replays, and more, visit: www.ontariosiresstakes.com Ontario Racing  

London, Ontario...The Raceway at Western Fair District is gearing up for its' biggest night of the year this Friday night featuring the $200,000 Molson Pace. Here are the event details on Friday night's program which promises to be action packed from start to finish: Promotions: - Special post time of 7:05 p.m. 12 race card. - Molson Party on the Patio featuring BBQ and Beer Specials! - Hands on Horses Program - Sign up at Guest Services for your chance to ride behind a real racehorse! - Molson Pace Cake in the lobby - Hat and T-shirt tosses throughout the night in the Grandstand and on the Patio - National Anthem performed by rising country music star Eric Ethridge - T-shirt and Hat Tosses in the Grandstand and on the Patio - Scratch & Win Programs - Win Trackside Music Festival tickets - Win Beer & BBQ tickets - 100s of giveaways including betting voucher and more! Wagering: - Ontario Sires Stake's Gold Divisions - 4 City of London Series Finals - 3 SUPER HI-5 (Races 7,10 &12) - $5,000 Guaranteed EARLY PICK-3 (Race 1) - $10,000 Guaranteed EARLY PICK-4 (Race 4) - $15,000 Guaranteed LATE PICK-4 (Race 9) (Low 15% takeout on all Guaranteed Pool wagers)   Greg Gangle

London, May 25, 2017 -- This Friday evening at The Raceway at Western Fair District, harness racing fans will be treated to another terrific Molson Pace card featuring 12 races and some of the sports brightest starts. With the post positions announced this past Monday, horseplayers have been sharpening their pencils to take advantage of the strong wagering menu. The Molson Pace, slated for Race 12, features eight of the sport's top free-for-all pacers for a purse of $150,000. Offering up their thoughts on the big night are Hall of Fame handicapper, statistician, broadcaster and historian Bob Heyden and HRU columnist Dean Towers along with track announcer Shannon 'Sugar' Doyle. Bob Heyden 1. What's your initial thought on the field for this year? There seem to be two possibilities in the race, in my opinion. Jordan Stratton dictates the race with Bit Of A Legend or pure mayhem. 2. What type of wager would you be apt to play? Triactor - That's why I put in the #1 (Bit Of A Legend) and backed it up with 7 (Rockin Ron) & 8 (Night Pro). 3. Provide a Late Pick 4 ticket (9-12) 235/468/56/178 Cost: $54 4. Anything else to watch for? Bit Of A Legend N not only swept the Levy last year, he posted the single biggest season ever for a down Under horse with over $700,000. Any breather at all and this race is over for the rest of them. But, in the event everyone half loses their mind, it is going to be a mad dash home and I want prices-the boxcar types. Dean Towers 1. What's your initial thought on the field for this year? At first glance when I saw probable race favorite Bit of a Legend draw the rail I thought we might be looking at a walk over. But after I dug into the race I was thrilled at this year's edition. Almost every horse has gate speed and most are half mile track specialists. I watched Clear Vision win last week at the Meadowlands and he's sharp; and Fool Me Once has looked excellent of late. From the second tier Night Pro has a nice chance to trip out. It's just a wonderful race. 2. What type of wager would you be apt to play? I'm a big fan of the super high five on half mile tracks. The takeout is great and it gives your mind a handicapping test - who may land where, what can we take a stab at for a price? If this race goes some crazy fractions - which on paper it may - this bet can pay boxcars. 3. Provide a Late Pick 4 ticket (9-12) 23457/135/7/1348 Cost: $60 4. Anything else to watch for? Maybe the most talked about card on a half mile track every year in Canada is the Gold Cup and Saucer. However, from top to bottom, with great horses, good drivers and a nice betting menu with good pool size to bet into, Molson Pace night is my favorite half mile track evening of the entire calendar. Shannon 'Sugar' Doyle 1. What's your initial thought on the field for this year? It's the deepest field of Invite pacers I've even seen on a half mile track in Canada! They've all been there & done that... What a super nice group of horses! 2. What type of wager would you be apt to play? It's all about the Super Hi 5 wager for me. I'd likely play the 1 (Bit Of A Legend N) & 3 (Clear Vision) in the top spots for Triactor, Superfecta & HI5 plays - they drew well in here, so it's all based on post position for me. Using 4 (Fool Me Once), 6 (Sunfire Blue Chip) & 8 (Night Pro) for 2nd, 3rd & 4th... Then hit the ALL button to complete the HI5. 3. Provide a Late Pick 4 ticket (9-12) 456/134589/45/13 Cost: $72 4. Anything else to watch for? With the addition of drivers like Doug McNair, Mark MacDonald & Brett Miller - among others - look for lots of early speed & great flow throughout the program. It will be 'On' this Friday night in London! The wagering menu on Friday will include a $5,000 guaranteed early Pick-3, $10,000 guaranteed early Pick-4, $15,000 guaranteed late Pick-4 and the addition of a third Super Hi-5 - all low 15 per cent takeout wagers First race post is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. Greg Blanchard

London, May 23, 2017 -- The 2017 edition of the Molson Pace, slated for this Friday May 26 at The Raceway at Western Fair District, will feature some of the harness racing sport's top free-for-all pacers. One of the new faces joining this year's field is Bit Of A Legend N, who will make his first trek to Canada for trainer Peter Tritton. The New Zealand-born son of Bettor's Delight will line up from the coveted rail with regular pilot Jordan Stratton in the bike. "The draw couldn't have worked out any better," Tritton said from his home base in Pine Bush, New York. "I think most trainers would want the rail and now it's up to the horse to deliver." Tritton, a native of Australia, has spent more than 15 years in the US and will also be making his first trip to Canada. "It's something I'm definitely looking forward to it," he said. "There have been a few times in the past I've meant to come, but it never worked out. My family and I are looking forward to the trip." The veteran conditioner, who races primarily at Yonkers, has found a strong niche for recruiting horses from Down Under (Australia & New Zealand) that fits his program in New York. Standout horses that have found their way in the Tritton barn include Moss Dale Connor N, Mackenzie N, Texican N and Sell A Bit N, just to name a few. "I've been very fortunate to have a great relationship with agent Peter Larkin for the past 35 years," Tritton said. "He recruits the horses and I'll go ahead and look them up with owner Harry Von Knoblauch. He knows the horses have to fit my program at Yonkers and we've had quite a bit of success over the years." Bit Of A Legend N is one horse that Tritton has become very fond of since arriving on North American soil a few seasons ago. The 35-time winner has more than $1.5 million earned lifetime and captured the 2016 final of the Levy against the best free-for-all pacers in North America on a half-mile track. He capped off last season with more than $723,000 earned. "I shouldn't say he was a pleasant surprise how good he turned out, because I knew he was very talented," he said. "I just didn't think he'd be this good. "He's so professional and very easy to drive," Tritton continued. "He's has just a pleasant horse and his manners are perfect. I can't fault him in any way." Tritton will once again be handing the driving assignment to young driver Jordan Stratton. The young reinsman will also be making his debut in the Molson Pace. "Jordan use to drive for me a little a few years ago and we had some luck," said Tritton. "I wanted a driver that would commit to driving all my horses, because I didn't like using different drivers every week. Jordan agreed and I think it has worked out well for everyone." Tritton admits it won't be an easy task on Friday. "I think it's an excellent looking field," he said. "I wouldn't say there is a standout and that should mean a great finish. We're looking forward to the experience in Canada." The field for this years Molson Pace will line up as follows: 1. Bit Of A Legend N ($1,525,011) - Jordan Stratton 2. Rockin In Heaven ($548,971) - Trevor Henry 3. Clear Vision ($2,703,859) - Brett Miller 4. Fool Me Once ($963,778) - Doug McNair 5. Evenin Of Pleasure ($773,857) - Sylvain Filion 6. Sunfire Blue Chip ($1,181,939) - Mark MacDonald 7. Rockin Ron ($665,988) - Matt Kakaley 8. Night Pro ($738,432) - Bob McClure Greg Blanchard

London, May 22, 2017 -- The post position draw for the $150,000 Molson Pace, which will be taking place this Friday at The Raceway at the Western Fair District, took place Monday, May 22 at the London, Ontario oval. The draw results for the Molson Pace appear below. Post - Horse - Driver 1 - Bit Of A Legend N by Bettor's Delight - Jordan Stratton 2 - Rockin In Heaven by Rock N Roll Heaven - Trevor Henry 3 - Clear Vision by Western Hanover - Brett Miller 4 - Fool Me Once  by Art Major - Doug McNair 5 - Evenin Of Pleasure  by Dragon Again - Sylvain Filion 6 - Sunfire Blue Chip by American Ideal - Mark MacDonald 7 - Rockin Ron by Real Desire - Matt Kakaley 8 - Night Pro by Pro Bono Best - Bob McClure The complexion for this year's Molson Pace at The Raceway at the Western Fair District in London certainly changed over the weekend. Soto, who was an initial starter from Delaware, has been withdrawn due to a minor foot injury that will likely keep him out of action for a week. Replacing Soto will be Fool Me Once who was to be this year's Also Eligible (A.E.) in the field. The seven-year-old son of Art Major is a 35-time career who is on the verge of millionaire status with more than $963,000 on his card. Owned by Brad Grant of Milton, Ont., the pacer has won three straight at Mohawk including a 1:50.4 victory this past weekend against Preferred company. Also accepting an invitation to race were the connections of Rockin In Heaven for conditioner Dr. Ian Moore. The son of Rock N Roll Heaven was a top NYSS performer as a sophomore and has already made his mark as a five-year-old with an impressive victory this past Saturday at Mohawk. The 15-time winner has more than $500K banked in his career. Moore is also no stranger to the signature event as he captured it three straight years with millionaire State Treasurer. "We are extremely happy with the field we've assembled and we're eagerly looking forward to Friday evening," said assistant manager, Greg Gangle. "The field includes local talent along with some fresh faces. Overall, it's a well-balanced group and should produce not only a great race but a very enticing wagering proposition" First post for Friday night's 12-race program is 7:05 p.m. For complete details on Molson Pace night, visit MolsonPace.com. Greg Blanchard

London, May 22, 2017 -- The field for this year's Molson Pace has now been finalized, but not before some last second changes to the harness racing line-up had to be made. The connections of Rockin In Heaven accepted an invite to join the seven previously confirmed entries and the son of Rock N Roll Heaven is coming off a victory this past weekend at Mohawk - his first victory in three trips postward this season. The five-year-old boasts career earnings of $548,971 for his trainer Dr. Ian Moore who co-owns along with Doug Polley and Gordon McComb of Nova Scotia and Francois Lecompte of Quebec. Moore trained three-time Molson Pace champion State Treasurer. Soto, who was to make the trek from Delaware, has been withdrawn due to a minor foot injury that will likely keep him out of action for a week. Replacing Soto will be Fool Me Once who was to be this year's Also Eligible (A.E.) in the field. The seven-year-old son of Art Major is a 35-time career who is on the verge of millionaire status with more than $963,000 on his card. Owned by Brad Grant of Ontario, the pacer has won three straight at Mohawk including a 1:50.4 victory this past weekend against Preferred company. The post draw for the $150,000 Molson Pace will be conducted on The Raceway's pre-game show at 5:30 p.m. Below is a list of the starters in alphabetical order along with their career earnings: Bit Of A Legend ($1,525,011) by Bettor's Delight Clear Vision ($2,703,859) by Western Hanover Evenin Of Pleasure ($773,857) by Dragon Again Fool Me Once ($963,778) by Art Major Night Pro ($738,432) by Pro Bono Best Rockin In Heaven ($548,971) by Rock N Roll Heaven Rockin Ron ($665,988) by Real Desire Sunfire Blue Chip ($1,181,939) by American Ideal Greg Blanchard

London, ON, May 16, 2017 - As the 2017 edition of the Molson Pace quickly quickly approaches, harness racing owner-trainer Dale Decker says he has been anticipating this year's rich classic for a long time. The Michigan-based conditioner was here once before and is eager to redeem himself following a sixth place finish in the 2015 Molson Pace with returning star, Night Pro. Night Pro, a son of Pro Bono Best, has won 46 of 82 career starts and has banked more than $730,000 in his career. "I was really hoping to get the invite and when the phone came in, I couldn't have been happier," Decker said of the Molson which comes up next Friday, May 26. "This race has been marked on my calendar since my horse came back last season and this is the first big race of the year for me." Widely known as king of the mid-west, the seven year old has finished worse than second just once in 29 starts over the past two seasons while racing manly at Hoosier Park, Northfield Park and Miami Valley. Back for a second time in this year's Molson, Decker says he hopes to use his past experience to his advantage in this year's race. "He didn't handle himself the best on the turns and had an injury that was starting to appear," he said. "He's been perfect thus far this season and couldn't be coming into the race any better. We all need luck in big races and I'm happy to be a part of the night." Decker, who resides in Temperance, Michigan, will trek roughly three hours to The Raceway and his approach will be different this year. "When I was there in 2015, I shipped him in early and he kind of washed out in the paddock because I got there around noon that day," he said. "I'll bring him in normal time and he should benefit from that." Decker, who is a home builder by trade, has campaigned Night Pro in all of his 82 career starts. "He has provided me with all kinds of thrills and I couldn't be more fortunate," he said. "A horse like him doesn't come along very often and I certainly don't take him for granted. He's so professional considering he's a stud and has a wonderful demeanour along with excellent manners. "My family will be in attendance that night which will make it extra special. It's a wonderful atmosphere and a great night for racing," Decker added. Six starters have been confirmed so far for the Molson with the final two spots to be filled out this week. The star-studded pacers joining Night Pro includes Rockin Ron, Soto, Bit Of A Legend, Sunfire Blue Chip and defending champion Evenin Of Pleasure. The powerful Molson Pace undercard will feature the first leg of the Ontario Sires Stakes for sophomore pacing colts and geldings along with a quartet of City of London finals. Total purses for the night will be in excess of $500,000. Two-time Molson Pace champion Foiled Again will also be competing on the night's undercard in what could be one of his final career races on Canadian soil. The 13-year-old is the richest pacer of all-time with earnings in excess of $7.5 million and he currently sits with 94 career wins to his credit. For complete details and a closer look at this year's Molson Pace field, visit www.molsonpace.com. Greg Blanchard

LONDON, May 3, 2017 -- The field for this year's Molson Pace is beginning to take shape and there are a few harness racing new faces expected for this year's $150,000 Invitational Pace slated for Friday, May 26 at The Raceway in London, Ontario. One of the confirmed starters is down under import Bit Of A Legend who last season captured the $609,000 Levy Final at Yonkers Raceway in a career-best clocking of 1:51. The eight-year-old son of Bettor's Delight, trained by Peter Tritton, is a career winner of more than $1.5 million and is coming off a closing fourth-place finish in this year's Levy final. Soto is a fellow regular at Yonkers Raceway where he was a solid competitor in this year's edition of the Levy. The five-year-old son of Rock N Roll Heaven won twice in the $50,000 preliminary legs before rallying from last to fifth in the $529,000 final. The Eric Ell trainee, who has earned more than $400,000 lifetime, will be making his Canadian debut in the Molson. The pair of New York invaders will be joined by fellow American invaders Rockin Ron and Night Pro. Rockin Ron, trained by Ron Burke, is no stranger to success on Canadian soil. The son of Real Desire was victorious in both the Confederation Cup and Prix D'Ete last season. Recently, the 23-time winner captured a division of the Levy and has missed the board only twice this season. The X-factor horse in this year's edition could be Night Pro. Arguably the best free-for-all pacer in the mid-west, the son of Pro Bono Best has crafted an impressive record of 15-11-0 from 27 starts over the past two seasons while racing primarily in Ohio and Indiana. Dale Decker owns and trains the 45-time winner who will make his second appearance in the Molson Pace. Back to defend his title is the local horse Evenin Of Pleasure. The Richard Moreau pupil established a new track record last season of 1:50.3 with a thrilling performance at odds of 36-1. The son of Dragon Again will be making his third start of the season this Saturday at Mohawk. Horses confirmed in alphabetical order include: Bit Of A Legend N Evenin Of Pleasure Night Pro Rockin Ron Soto There are three remaining spots still to be filled for this year's rich classic. The management team at The Raceway will announce more confirmed starters next week. The powerful Molson Pace undercard will feature the first leg of the Ontario Sires Stakes for sophomore pacing colts and geldings along with a quartet of City of London finals. Total purses for the night will be in excess of $500,000. Two-time Molson Pace champion Foiled Again will also be competing on the night's undercard in what could be one of his final career races on Canadian soil. The 13-year-old is the richest pacer of all-time with earnings in excess of $7.5 million and he currently sits with 94 career wins to his credit. As always, there will be lots happening on track that night, including the Party On The Patio with BX-93, Scratch and Win program prizes as well as contest giveaways and swag tosses, the OSS 'Be A Winner Contest, food specials and more. Complete details will be announced in the coming days. The wagering menu has been bolstered to include a $5,000 guaranteed early Pick-3, $10,000 guaranteed early Pick-4, $15,000 guaranteed late Pick-4 and the addition of a third Super Hi-5 - all low 15 per cent takeout wagers. For more information, visit www.MolsonPace.com.  

London, April 25, 2017 -- The staff at The Raceway at Western Fair District are busy gearing up for what promises to be a busy and exciting month of May with a couple of new harness racing initiatives thrown in for good measure. Beginning on Monday, May 1st, the London oval will be contesting two races daily - races 6 and 10 - at the distance of 1-1/16 miles. The designated races are the Super Hi-5 races which feature 9-horse fields and an added trailer in the second tier. The added distance races will be conducted as a trial for the month of May to evaluate how it affects the style of racing and what impact is has on wagering and payoffs. "We decided to give this a try after consulting with fans and horse people," said Director of Racing Greg Blanchard. "The hope is that it adds another dimension to those races and makes the handicapping puzzle more intriguing while at the same time giving horses and drivers a longer distance to the first turn and a better opportunity to get good early position. The added 330 feet should also benefit horses racing from off the pace." The Super Hi-5 has become a very popular wager at The Raceway with .20 cent payoffs averaging more than $1,000 for most of the season. For the first time in several years, The Raceway will also feature live racing on Mother's Day which lands on Sunday, May 14. First post for the afternoon program is 1:15 p.m. and seating is going fast for the Mother's Day brunch that day. To make reservations, contact 519-438-7203 (ext. 252) or email topofthefair@westernfairdistrict.com. The Raceway's Annual Wall of Fame Night will take place on Friday, May 12. This year's inductee is long-time owner, breeder and track man Mac Lilley who operates Mac Lilley Farms in nearby Dutton. Lilley will be honoured during a trackside ceremony on a night that also features the Wall of Fame Pace and a special Mini Horse contest. As always, the season will end on a high note when the track hosts its signature event, The Molson Pace, on Friday, May 26. Many of North America's best older pacers will square off in the $150,000 contest and the powerful undercard will feature Ontario Sires Stakes Gold divisions for three-year-old colt pacers along with a quartet of City of London Series Finals. "This is the night we look forward to each year," said Blanchard. "One of the strengths of our venue is that fans are in very close proximity to the horses. When you combine world-class horses, music, good food, contests and giveaways and great wagering opportunities, it really does make for a fun and exciting atmosphere. "Our new tarmac area in front of the grandstand is still a work in progress but will be open and functioning that evening and will give us an added outdoor viewing area that we have not had before. We are proud of how this night has evolved and look forward to another great night this year." For more details on the Molson Pace and everything happening at The Raceway, visit www.westernfairdistrict.com. Greg Blanchard

CAMPBELLVILLE, April 14 - The Alliance would like to remind harness racing horsepeple that nominations to the 2017 City of London Series, to be contested at The Raceway at Western Fair District, are due Saturday (April 15). Ontario sired four-year-olds and younger, who were non-winners of $10,000 lifetime as of midnight February 28, 2017, are eligible for nomination to the City of London. The dates for each of the four City of London Series are as follows. 1. Pace - Horses & Geldings (Eliminations: Tuesday, May 16 - Final: Friday, May 26) 2. Pace - Fillies & Mares (Eliminations: Tuesday, May 16 - Final: Friday, May 26) 3. Trot - Horses & Geldings (Eliminations: Friday, May 19 - Final: Friday, May 26) 4. Trot - Fillies & Mares (Eliminations: Friday, May 19 - Final: Friday, May 26) Each elimination will be contested for a purse of $7,000, while each City of London final will have $20,000 in added money to the purse. The nomination fee for the City of London Series is $100 CAD or $75 USD. Administration duties for the City of London Series are handled by the Woodbine Entertainment Group (WEG). The nomination form for the City of London Series can be viewed by clicking here. Nomination fees can be paid online by clicking here. If sending payments by mail, envelopes must be clearly post-marked no later than April 15, 2017 or payment will not be accepted. Registered mail is recommended. Mark McKelvie - Ontario Alliance

The live tweeting of harness racing Race Officials' calls began Monday, April 10, as part of the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO)'s 'Moving Ahead: Horse Racing Regulation in Ontario' project. Currently a pilot project, the intent of the live tweeting is to provide transparency with regard to calls made by Race Officials during a race. For example, if an inquiry is posted, that information will be communicated in a tweet, followed by the outcome of the inquiry and any resulting placing changes. This ground-breaking pilot will be running for the remainder of the Standardbred race season at The Raceway at Western Fair District on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday evenings. Post time for all cards is 6:15 p.m.. As part of the pilot, the Race Official's Race Report detailing the events of the evening's card will be posted online by both The Raceway and Standardbred Canada. These may be viewed here  and  here. Following the pilot, the project will be reviewed and a decision made during the summer as to whether to continue or expand this initiative to additional tracks. Once a decision has been made, it will be communicated to the industry. We invite you to follow the Twitter accounts at @AGCO_Racing and @CAJO_Courses. For more information, please contact connect@agco.ca.  

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