05/18/2013 12:49PM

Ajax Downs begins 30-day Quarter Horse meeting

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Ajax Downs will open its doors Monday for a 30-day meeting that runs though Oct. 15.

A total of 84 horses were entered for 10 races, with first post set for 12:55 p.m.

Ajax, an Ontario Quarter Horse racetrack, will be racing 10 fewer days than last year and has tweaked its schedule, with racing on seven Mondays, including five holidays.

Ajax formerly raced on Sundays and Tuesdays. Tuesday racing will remain a staple of the meeting. Special Sunday cards will be offered on June 16, which is Father’s Day, and Aug. 18.

“The beauty of the holiday Monday is we’ve got five of them, and four of them are just Canadian holidays,” said Nick Coukos, vice president of racing for Ajax Downs.

The purses at Ajax Downs are supported by the Quarter Horse Racing Industry Development Program and will total close to $3.7 million this year, including $750,000 for stakes races. Total purses for last year’s meeting exceeded $5 million.

Ajax Downs also benefited from the slots-at-racetracks program, which provided 10 percent of net proceeds to the racetrack and 10 percent to the horsemen for purses.

The Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation pulled the plug on that program for all Ontario racetracks on April 1 and now leases the slot machine areas from the racetracks. Some 800 slot machines are located at Ajax Downs.

“Our horse population is down a little bit,” Coukos said. “There’s no question, with the changes that have been made, we’ve been affected. But not overly affected.

“We’ve right-sized our business. Compared to where we were five or six years ago, we’re still in pretty good shape. Compared to last year, we’re down.

“We have money in our reserve fund that is going to be used for this year, and we’re looking at alternative sources of revenue for making ourselves sustainable in the future.”

Ajax Downs is open for simulcasting seven days a week, from 12 p.m. to 12 a.m.

“We’ve maintained our same distribution network as last year, so that’s a positive thing,” Coukos said.