Rozema’s Roundup – August
Written by: Chad Rozema, Grand River Raceway Raceway Manager
Hard to believe that we are three-quarters of the way through our racing season already. The month of August was a fun one and new records were the theme.
Wagering continued to show growth in August with all-sources handle coming in at $3,934,109, an increase of 22% compared to August of 2022 that sported handle of $3,210,077. Strengthening the numbers was a record-setting Industry Day card that produced a handle of $590,824, the highest total in the 20 years the Elora oval has hosted. The previous best of $481,229 was established in 2016. So far $10,855,766 has been wagered on the Grand River product, surpassing last year’s total of $10,789,629 with 11 race cards still to be contested.
The Industry Day program was headlined by the Battle of Waterloo presented by Winbak Farms. Do Better captured our marquee event improving his record to 5 for 5 with a 1:54.3 tally. The Bettors Delight gelding delivered Hall of Famer Bob McIntosh his second BOW title and future Hall of Famer Sylvain Filion his first in the event. One race earlier, locally-based filly Cheese Party blew up the board in the Battle of the Belles, returning $103.20 for her upset victory. The Betterthancheddar rookie scored the 1:56.3 improbable win for Arthur, Ontario based owner/trainer Kyle Bossence. She was driven by fellow Arthur resident Trevor Henry who also won this event in 2022 with Big Big Plans.
A trio of new track records were established in August beginning with Ben Baillargeon trained Ghostly Casper, who captured his OSS Gold event on the 14th in 1:54.4, shaving nearly two seconds off the previous mark of 1:56.3 for 3yo colt trotters. Two weeks later a pair of records fell when Sara Baillargeon trainee Dealin With Dewey won his Grand River debut in 1:54.3, lowering the previous aged gelding trot mark of 1:55.1 that was set in early July by Sea Can. Finally, 2021 Canadian Horse of the Year Desperate Man put on a show in the Preferred Pace and scored by a wide margin in 1:50.1, erasing the old record of 1:50.4 that was set by Rare Jewel in 2007! With only a month left on the racing calendar, the new mark is all but certain to stand forever with the move to a 5/8ths mile configuration in 2024.
Colin Kelly continues to hold a narrow lead in a crowded driver’s race. His 7 wins in August put him at 33 for the season, one better than Travis Henry (32) and Anthony Haughan (32). Jason Ryan (27) sits fourth while Brett MacDonald (26) and Jay Harris (26) occupy the fifth spot. Conditioner Jodie Cullen remains the leader in the race for top trainer with 14 wins, but others are closing in. Brett Lester (12) and Lori Lepage (12) are hot on her heels in second, while Jacob Roberts (11) and Anthony Beaton (9) could make a charge with a productive September. The title races should be fun to track and add even more intrigue to the product over the final month.
There is still plenty of racing to take in as we head for the home stretch of our 2023 season. Over the next month, we will be recognizing all the amazing caretakers as we host National Caretakers Appreciation Day on Wednesday, September 6th. We host plenty of OSS action throughout the month including the Prospect Series Finals on our closing night, Wednesday, September 27th. Excavation crews have been hard at work moving plenty of earth as the construction continues for the new 5/8ths track, come and check out the progress.
Racing continues Monday, Wednesday, and Friday nights in September with a first post of 6:30pm. Note that we do not race on Labour Day Monday, September 4th. Thanks to everyone that has helped make this such a successful season and for the continued support of the Grand River Raceway product. I hope to see you all at the races and cheers to a fantastic final month!
Photo: James Woods