On Saturday, August 12, eleven of the top harness racing drivers from around the globe will assemble at Century Downs Racetrack and Casino, near Calgary, Alta., to kick off the 2017 World Driving Championship.
The effort to host the opening leg of this biennual event began in early 2016 when Senior Officials from Century Downs, Horse Racing Alberta and the Alberta Standardbred Horse Association discussed hosting a leg and then made a formal bid to SC’s Board of Directors.
“This is very big for Century Downs as it can only help bring more recognition to this track and what we are trying to accomplish in Alberta,” said Paul Ryneveld, General Manager of Century Downs. With a Calgary resident (Brandon Campbell) representing Canada, Ryneveld agrees that he couldn’t have scripted the event any better.
On June 26, 2016 Century hosted the Western Regional Driving Championship to determine the two reps that would advance to the Nationals at Western Fair in London in October. With Campbell winning that event and the National and with the WDC kicking off at the Balzac track, the event has come full circle.
“This is going to be a fun week. Final details are being worked through and billboards [and ads] are up around Calgary, catching all the people Stampeding as well as locals,” said Ryneveld. “We hope we are packed with Calgarians and Albertans that day but also know there will be international attention. Our goal really is to host an excellent event that people will compare to in years to come. We have quite a few things tying the fan experience with what is happening on the track. There will be an autograph session with the drivers, food from the various countries, live music, and more.”
A big part of the success of all of the WDC legs is entries from local horsepeople and Century Downs and ASHA have been proactive in keeping the horsepeople informed and offering an incentive. “A meeting was held with the horsemen on June 25 to talk about the strategy with entries for the weekend and everyone seems to be on the same page,” explained Ryneveld, “In order to encourage entries and with some concern about horse population the purses on WDC races will be $2,000 more each and a hitching fee will be paid for those horses finishing in 6th through 11th position.”
Century has moved its usual 1:10 matinee post time to 5:10 p.m. “With the Australia simulcast (late morning for them versus 6:00 a.m) as well as timing of the other legs at the other facilities, we wanted to capitalize on the best time slot possible and avoid the clutter in the simulcast world on Saturday afternoons.”
The WDC leg is the culmination of a weeklong Festival which Century has put together. The First Annual Calgary Racing Festival is set to kick off on Sunday, August 6th and run until Saturday, August 12th. The week-long event features an Industry Day, Mid Summer Classic, Charity Bowling and Charity Golf tournaments, and a Charity Gala.
The 22-race World Driving Championship takes place at five different racetracks in four different provinces. Drivers earn points based on their finishing position and the top point earner at the end of the 22 races will be declared the 2017 World Driving Champion and win $25,000 in prize money.
This event, along with the 25th anniversary edition of the World Trotting Conference, hosted in Charlottetown, PEI, are both held every two years and will coincide with the 250th Anniversary of horse racing in Canada, and Canada 150 celebrations.
Original web link - Standardbred Canada
Century Downs tarmac (image courtesy packwoodgrand.com)