Page 14

Horse Racing Returns to Calgary Area By Doug Vaessen, Global News The $24-million Century Downs Racetrack and Casino is slated to open to the public at the end of April, and the harness racing industry is calling it a “lifesaver” that industry experts hope will revive the sport.

Standardbred racing will return to Calgary with the opening of Century Downs racetrack. (Associated Press)


t Cenalta Stables, north of Olds, Gordon Empey has been raising standard-bred pacers for much of the past two decades.

Casino will open on Dwight McLellan Trail near Cross Iron Mills. The hope is that it will inject $7 to $9 million annually into an industry that’s been starving for a major venue. “We are a casino and off-track betting site for 364 days of the year, but for 100 days we will race live– something unique to Calgary now,”

14 • Saddle Up • May 2015

year deal last week to provide the track with horses. Ryneveld said they’re about two weeks away from opening the building, and another two weeks from horses on the track. They expect to be open to the public for live racing April 25. After a seven-year hiatus, this is great news! The entertainment complex will feature a 0.7 mile racetrack, 550 gaming machines, a restaurant, bars and an off-track betting lounge. Fans of the sport have since had no option other than to watch racing online or make the trek north to Edmonton to Northlands Park Racetrack and Casino for live events. The racetrack-casino was first proposed to open in 2007, but has been  plagued over the years by financial uncertainty and delays. Now, with only finishing touches left to be done on the site, the Century Downs casino will open April 1, with the first horse races set to take place April 25. Thoroughbred racing  will begin in 2016, and by that point, Century Downs’ barns will be able to accommodate 300 horses on any given race day.

Photo Courtesy of Century Downs

“It’s always the time of year we look forward to the most because another two weeks the foals will start to come—just look forward to what we will have then, and two years down the road.” But this year is special: for the first time in almost a decade, Empey’s horses will race in Calgary. “It’s probably the lifesaver for us. We all have been just hanging on by the skin of our teeth the last years, every year getting tougher. And finally the light is going to show up at the end of the tunnel – and without it we are all finished.” Empey explained that horse people are glad that Standardbred racing is back in the Calgary market because “Really, we don’t have a circuit because we’ve been jumping around from Timbuktu to everywhere else.” After fits and false starts for years, Century Downs Racetrack and

Drivers pose on the soon-to-be finished racetrack at the Century Downs Casino north of Calgary. (CBC)

Photo Courtesy of Century Downs

said Paul Ryneveld, the general manager at Century Downs. The track still needs 20 cm of rock dust, but in a few weeks, horses will be running. The Alberta Standardbred Horse Association signed a fiveHCBC 2010 Business of tHe Year

Saddle Up May 2015  
Saddle Up May 2015  

Horse Magazine, Western Canada, English and Western, Club News, Equine