This week we go one on one with Jackson Wittup, the new announced Race Secretary at Century Downs
How does it feel to be coming back home and how did this all come about?
I am certainly excited to be returning to Calgary and being a part of horse racing returning to the Calgary area as there hasn't been any Standardbred racing since 2006. While in BC I have certainly followed the Century Downs project and applied for the job online when it was posted. I’m looking forward to being part of the team bringing Standardbred and Thoroughbred racing back to Calgary.
When is your official start date and what do you feel will be your major challenges in this position?
I officially start Feb 2, as Vice Chairman of Standardbred Canada I have meetings and the opportunity to attend the O'Brien awards that take place in Mississauga. I assume the immediate challenges will be to round up a decent horse population, in the beginning stabling will still be a problem, and possibly to put a racing staff together as industry people have left the Calgary area.
Have you set any goals and what will be your guidelines in writing the conditions sheets?
After averaging over 8 horses per race this fall and winter at Fraser Downs, I think the Horsemen are realizing that has to be the number one goal and I want to work with the Alberta Horsemen to do our best. To do that and to help achieve that goal I believe the condition sheet has to be open for all Horsemen to enter. I care about our fans and want to deliver competitive full fields of exciting racing.
What are Alberta race fans in for at Century Downs?
I believe Alberta has a very strong stakes program and there seems to be a renewed interest in breeding horses again so I think Century Downs can host some of the best stake races for young horses in Western Canada. With no Standardbred racing in Calgary since 2006, I think Century Downs will have to educate a lot of new fans to horse racing. Century Downs will focus on the customer and deliver a favorable experience.
Tell us about your experience in BC and what did you learn there?
I had two stints of working in BC, one as Race Secretary and one as Executive Director of Harness Racing BC (Horsemen's Association). Both jobs confirmed my thoughts - what a tough business horse racing is for the Horsemen to make a living. Most people in the real world do not realize how much money and hard work it takes to put on a race card. I hope Century Downs will give the Horsemen in Alberta and Western Canada for that matter some stability.
Can Alberta Racing learn anything from the current BC business model?
No comment on this one
You have seen many races over the years – to date tell us about your favorite race of all time and why?
When May rolls around I will be starting my 40th year in the racing industry so asking for one favorite race is a little tough. The Nat Christie was such a big part of the Calgary racing scene and I was fortunate enough to have been the Race Secretary for all 25 years so I will give you my three favorite races.
Counterfeit Crown (only filly ever to win)
The Bruster - 2004 (the perfect one horse small stable wins the big one)
All Over The Place - 2005 (sets track record, 1:50.1, winning the second heat of the day after racing twice the week before in Flamboro and shipping all the way across the country)
Golf season is longer in BC, so how is your game currently?
I never found that regular golf group in BC so I have lost a little interest in golf, something tells me being part of a new facility means there may not be a lot of time for golf.