05/13/2011 1:26PM

Ajax Downs: $6 million in purses up for grabs


Ajax Downs, the Quarter Horse track located just north and east of Toronto, will open its doors for a 40-day meeting with a nine-race card on Sunday.

Boosted by an industry development program initiated by the Ontario Racing Commission and the presence of 800 on-site slot machines, Ajax Downs entered a new era last year and fared well in terms of both racing and the marketplace.

“Last year was the first time our product was simulcast by the Woodbine Entertainment Group, and there was a lot of interest,” said Nick Coukos, the vice president of corporate affairs for Ajax Downs.

“Right now, we’re up about 20 percent in terms of sites that will take our signal. We’ve got 280 sites, representing 40 racetracks.”

Ajax Downs will race on Sundays through Oct. 2 with Tuesdays, the only day the track exports its signal, being added to the schedule on May 24.

Coukos said that $6 million in purses would be distributed over the course of the meeting, with nine- or 10-race cards the norm.

Handle should also benefit from the introduction of pick three and pick four wagering, neither of which was available last year.

“We’re hoping to get those going in June,” said Coukos.

All of the Ajax Downs entrants ship in to race, and Coukos is proud of a new ship-in barn which will accommodate 140 horses.

“Our facility is becoming state-of-the-art,” said Coukos.

Also new to Ajax Downs will be Daryl Wells, the former Fort Erie race-caller who will join Coukos as an analyst on the “Talking Quarter Horses” in-house TV show each Sunday.

Peter Gross, a sportscaster and editor of the monthly newsmagazine “Down the Stretch”, will return to co-host the show with Coukos on Tuesdays.

Gross also will be the guest handicapper at four handicapping brunches on Sundays June 5, July 17, Aug. 21, and Sept. 6.

The two-hour sessions will begin at 10:30 a.m. and are designed to introduce new audiences to Quarter Horse racing.

The racing commission also announced that racehorse ownership seminars ill be held on Sunday, June 19, and Sunday, Oct. 18, with both running from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.